I’m not a very literal Christian, but I do believe that a lot of Christianity is good. But I don’t think it’s good because God says so – I think it’s God said so because it’s good for you. One example is the Sabbath.
But what is a Sabbath? Going to church on Sunday, then sitting around reading psalms? No, a Sabbath is first and foremost a day of rest, and second a day of worship. And God doesn’t ask us to observe it because he’s needy for worship: he asks us to do it because we need time off. I’m not going to go into the Episcopal theology which suggests that Jesus doesn’t care what day you take your Sabbath as long as you do take one – I’ll let my fundamentalist and atheist friends thumbwrestle over that one. I’m just going to take it as a given that we need a day off.
So … what does the Sabbath have to do with Microsoft Word?
In my personal life, I’m like a submarine: I disappear into whatever project I’m working on (see the bursty timing of my blogposts as evidence for this). And even though I usually have something on the order of four to six major projects going at once, I’m really only good at focusing on one of them at a time. My current project: revising my second novel BLOOD ROCK, which I’ve been doing since something like September, responding to hundreds of comments from my editor.
I’m down to the wire now. The book is over 100 pages shorter and tighter after months of edits. I’ve gone from a HUGE list of TODO items that sprawled over two pages down to a short list of items I’d written on the back of a receipt. One of my last items is re-reviewing all the remaining Microsoft Word comments, which I’ve been doing over the last several days.
But as I did so, I found that somehow I’d either lost my memory or Word had neglected to show a whole bunch of comments to me. Months ago, I went through the entire document in detail resolving differences and addressing comments before starting my big tightening edit, and yet there are real, material important comments I would remember if I’d seen them that only showed up in the last few days.
Having observed Word’s behavior looking for possible bugs, I’m guessing either it was collapsing comments when there were lots of edits on a page, or, more likely, this is a scrolling bug that caused some comments to appear “over the top of the page” and thus effectively become invisible. Another alternative is that it might have to do with the “ribbon” … I recently switched from Word 2004 for Mac to Word 2011 and the interface for comments seems to have changed. A simple interface change; they happen. But that’s not the point.
My frustration is that even minor offhand comments from the editor can lead to big changes. If she asks me to delete something on page 204, I might just do it — but if I don’t agree, I generally think hard about whether I need it, whether it’s important to me, and if so how to integrate it so deeply into the novel that it’s inevitable — ideally to the point where she’d tell me to put it back in if I took it out, though I don’t know if I ever achieve that.
So now I have a whole load of comments that I’m essentially getting fresh. Worse, they’re commenting on things in sections that I had previously reworked in response to the editor’s written comments, sections where I didn’t think there were major in-line comments. So I’ve spent a great deal of effort fixing things in response to the revision email, the suggested changes, and a long hallway conversation with the editor at Dragon*Con, but I’m now finding dozens of things, both little and great, that would have potentially changed what I would have done.
So … what does Microsoft Word have to do with the Sabbath? Well … I am taking today off.
I have a great job at the Search Engine That Starts With a G, but it takes a lot of time – partly work, partly travel time, partly mental recuperation time. And I have a wife, and friends, and cats. By lugging my laptop to breakfast, lunch, dinner and coffee, I can eke out 3-4 hours a night 3-4 days a week, but that’s not enough, and generally need to work on my writings on the weekends. This gets especially intense when editing, because I can’t futz around doing research reading or shift gears to another story if I’m stumped; I’ve got to keep my brain focused on the EDITING process.
But my frustration reached its limit last night. I blew my stack and fired off a few frustrated emails to the editor, and decided to take today off. To use the Sabbath that God gave us. I don’t have a link to the great sermon that Father Ken of Saint Stephens in the Field gave on the topic, but I do have a link to my atheist friend Jim Davies, who takes Saturdays completely off so he is free the rest of the week to pursue the top priority items on his nobility list. The theology is different – but the idea is the same.
The point? The moment I decided to take the day off, I felt completely liberated. I’m going to do something fun like ride a bike or design a robot brain – or maybe visit a bookstore for something other than their wifi or coffee. Before writing this blog post, I spent the previous hour implementing “Hello World” in every language installed on my new Macbook Air as part of a project to crack my programming knuckles again (and oddly, the hardest language was Awk, which I actually use so much at the command line it’s like a reflex. Weird). I’ve been wanting to do this for weeks, but I’ve spent it revising. Now instead, I’ve had a little fun. My batteries are already recharged.
Maybe you’re one of those people who find it easy to take time off. Good for you. If you’re not, especially if you live in the Bay Area … take a break. Maybe not even take a break from work; take a break from whatever you won’t let yourself take a break from.