Pride & Technology


This week, I embarked on a journey that is likely to help me not only finish my novel but publish it. I’m working with a group of people who have built an interesting model that challenges the paradigms of traditional publishing and supports aspiring authors in meaningful ways.

I am really excited about the next several months and what I expect to accomplish.

This blog post is not about that, though.

This blog post is about technology – garbage technology to be more specific – the kind of cludgey, unintuitive garbage technology that makes me wonder if maybe software development is being handled by monkeys. And, if it isn’t, maybe it should be.

Take for instance the worksheet that asks me to click checkboxes to select various personal and book-related attributes. Normal, right? Only, here checking the boxes doesn’t just check the boxes it also greys out and strikes through the choice. If this was a TO DO list, I’d love it. But this isn’t a TO DO list, it’s a selection. Apparently, the developers, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the only way to build a system that is “robust and user friendly” was to also make it “streamlined,” eg. you can only control certain types of formatting. So, I can make things bold or italic (thank you very much, 1997-level functionality). But I can’t manually adjust the formatting for the checklist to remove the damned strikethrough. So, my list looks kind of indecisive: There are checkmarks next to “literary fiction” and “romance,” but those are also struck through and gray; they stand out less on the page, have less emphasis, than the other genres that I am not writing.

Maybe this shouldn’t bother me so much. But if you’ve ever had a shirt with a tag that hits in just the wrong place, then you know how I feel about this checklist business. It seems small and insignificant – probably unnoticeable to most; but it makes me twitchy. I spent about an hour clicking through options, trying different approaches, googling, searching help sites, and cursing – I can’t leave out the cursing.

And it wasn’t just the checklist. There are other things: the interface, the folder configurations, the tab functionality. A technology that is meant to be “simple” is, ironically, convoluted and over-complicated. I consider myself a relatively tech savvy gal. Sure, I needed three students working together with visual aids to explain what “f in the chat” meant, but I’m pretty good at content management systems, learning management systems, word processors, databases, and the like. I can do my fair share of HTML and markdown. Hell, I can even respond to a group email without replying all. I’ve generally got my technological shit together.

Yet, for a solid 15 minutes I thought to myself, I’m not going to be able to deal with this. Followed quickly, and quite naturally, by: That’s it! I can’t be in this program if I have to work on this garbage platform. And to be clear, I have to. This is THE hub for everything I will do. Over the next several weeks, I will copy my work, bit by bit, into new documents on this platform. I will track my progress in spreadsheets on this platform. I will chat with my editor, mentors, and cohorts here. It’s like a campus.

So, maybe it’s not too much of a stretch that I thought about quitting. If you registered for college, but then arrived on campus to find you had to walk back and forth through a mosquito-infested, excrement-filled swamp, you might rethink your enrollment. But I really didn’t want to withdraw from this. In my gut, I’m still confident the process I’m entering into will help me get my novel done and published in a way I can be proud of.

So, I asked myself: What’s more important: Finishing the novel or being right about this garbage technology?

I went with finishing the novel. (Which doesn’t mean I’m not right about the garbage technology; it just means I’m not diving onto my sword because of it). It’s a lesson, a guru – about adapting, prioritizing, and not giving in to the unnecessary irritations.

I mean, if I psychoanalyze myself, it was probably way easier for me to get pissed off at that damn checklist than face the truth: as much as I want to finish the novel, I am also freakin’ terrified by it.

…Nah. The technology is junk. A steaming pile of hot garbage. And that’s all there is to it.