As a writer, even if you're not yet publishing, you're certain to run into tech glitches. A task that you thought would be quick and easy (or at least one or the other) turns out to be complex and time-consuming.
If you're like me, when that happens you probably:
- feel frustrated and overwhelmed
- find yourself running late for your next appointment or task
- swear at your laptop
- do all of the above
But none of those things makes you feel better. Or helps you get anything done faster.
I know. I've run into this problem often the last few months while planning the launch of my first podcast.
So how do you keep tech glitches from hijacking your time and your mental well-being?
Predicting Tech Glitches
Tech problems are most likely to happen when:
- you're dealing with new (to you at least) technology
- you're starting a new project
- a program or app needs to be updated
Anytime you try something using technology you haven't used before, odds are you'll run into trouble.
That's because until we use a new app or program, we don't know its ins and outs. A feature that looks easy to use at first glance might require a few preliminary set up steps. Or you'll need to update other software to make it compatible with a new program. Maybe you'll have to hunt for data to input that you didn't expect.
Likewise, a new project often includes steps you didn't know enough to plan for. Or requires using technology you've never used before (see above).
And then there's updates.
A lot of programs update automatically or prompt you to update. Others don't.
If a program or app needs an update, it may not work properly or do what you need it to do. If you don't realize an update is needed until that last minute, that can add a lot of time and frustration to your task.
When It All Happens At Once
My most recent tech glitch incorporated all of the above.
I finally got my first ever podcast episode (for Buffy and the Art of Story) edited. But I exported it as a WAV file, and it took up too much space. I felt so pleased when I realized this morning the reason my file was too large. I thought it would take me about 3 minutes to reexport it as an MP3.
Except the software I'm using, Audacity, wouldn't let me.
After Googling and reading help screens and threads I discovered there had been several new versions of Audacity in the last couple months. I needed to update first (not easy in itself), then I could export.
What I thought would take 3 minutes took slightly over an hour.
Planning For Tech Glitches
Happily, there are a few things that can help you deal with tech glitches.
- Build them into your project timeline
- Carefully choose when you'll undertake any task that involves new technology or that you haven't done before
- Make a plan for dealing with unexpected glitches
A project manager and author I heard speak said the general rule for IT is that everything will take 2.7 times longer than you expect.
He wasn't talking about technology specifically. Just the human tendency to plan our time as if everything will go right when that just never happens.
I find the 2.7 times is a good rule for project I've done before, like writing another novel in the same series.
If I'm doing something brand-new, though (like creating a podcast for the first time) instead I multiply my timeline by 10.
I hope it will take me less time.
But I know there are lots of aspects of the project that I'm completely unaware of. All that extra time gives me time the room to figure all those new things out.
Choosing Your Time
The worst time to embark on a new project is when you're facing a hard deadline on existing work or you're otherwise in a hurry. That's so because while you're dealing with tech glitches , you'll also be panicking about not getting your other work done.
For that reason, it's key to schedule brand-new projects for times when your other responsibilities are lighter.
The alternative — and we need one because most of us have ongoing work with deadlines — is to set a very soft deadline on your new project.
As an example, I had hoped to launch my new Buffy and the Art of Story podcast by the end of September. But I was also working on the launch of my latest novel, which has a hard deadline of November 4, 2019. And I was teaching a new class starting in late August that I suspected might be very time-consuming. (Spoiler, I was right.)
So I didn't announce the new podcast to anyone outside my mailing list subscribers. And with them, I let them know the release date was uncertain.
Even now, I put the first episode up on my website, but still need to upload it to iTunes, Stitcher, and other podcast services. I hope to do that by Halloween.
But I'm not promising anyone that I will.
In a perfect world for the last month I would have been sharing a specific launch date and publicizing for months beforehand. But knowing about all my other work, it was better for me to leave the release open ended.
When A Glitch Happens
When technology problems do happen, here are some steps to take:
Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you expected glitches. It's normal. You can handle this.
If you're worried about other work, take a moment to figure out if you are better off (a) setting aside your current project and working on something else for the day; (b) setting aside your other work for a few hours and dealing only with the glitch; or (c) alternating between trying different things to address the glitch and doing other work.
When you do deal with the glitch, there's bound to be down time when the software updates, your laptop reboots, or you're waiting for an answer from someone you contacted for help.
Use the time well.
Rather than drumming your fingers on your desktop as you stare at the screen (and maybe curse), turn to some task you've been putting off.
Clean out that file drawer you haven't looked at in a decade. Proofread 10 pages of your latest novel. Fill out those reports you've been dragging your feet on for your other job.
When you're done, you'll feel you've accomplished something. And odds are your computer will be ready for you to take another step.
Technology can be wonderful and it can also be frustrating. I hope the above helps it feel wonderful more often, and saves you some time.
That's all for now. Until next Friday —
L. M. Lilly
P.S. Struggling with stress or anxiety as you juggle writing and the rest of life? Happiness, Anxiety, and Writing: Using Your Creativity To Live A Calmer, Happier Life might be able to help.