What To Do When The Lights Go Out
What do you do when the power goes out and you’re left fumbling in the dark?
Well, all right, the power didn’t go out for all that long but it went out, and shut down everything in the place including my computer. Nice thing about my computer (and probably lots of others) is that it has a safety feature that doesn’t allow it to turn back on automatically when the power returns.
Which was a good thing this time.
Part of the reason for the outage was the extreme heat that had been going on for days. Our wonderful electric company, PECO (for any of you who know about Philly or live in the area), didn’t bother to inform our building that there was an outage problem. Because of that, our backup system kicked in but for whatever electrical reasons coming from PECO the backup went into overdrive. Things went back on, pumps started pumping, and pies burst flooding twelve floors.
Blissfully unaware of this, when the power flickered back on, I went to my computer to turn it on and resume working. It looked dead. Deader than dead. There was no nothing from the monitor which usually flashes a light saying that it’s still on even if the computer isn’t. Not this time. The monitor light was out.
I thought the computer was fried by the electrical mishap.
Did I panic? Did I run around shouting and berating myself for not having backed things up? No on both counts. I’d just backed up everything important on two different drives so with the exception of some little things which are easily found again, my files were relatively safe. And I didn’t panic.
Nope. Instead I resorted to reading. Yes. Reading. Something that I used to do voraciously but which, when in the midst of various works in progress, I don’t do enough of. Somehow it seems like you’re taking time from doing something else you should be doing.
I managed to finish a couple of novels, read some short stories, and even caught up on shredding junk mail. I also rediscovered all the joys of reading when I gave myself permission to take a break from the computer and just sink into a book.
Reading also made me remember just how much you learn about writing. It takes some of the pleasure out of reading when you read with a critical eye but it teaches you so much that it’s worth it. I find myself correcting grammar, rewriting sentences, and learning about plotting and structure as I read.
Since then, I’ve tried to consciously build in some reading time in order to make a dent in the humongous book collection I have. It’s both a pleasure and an education. As writers, we can never stop learning about our craft. Reading is one of the best tools to learning more about good and bad writing. It’s amazing how the bad stuff stands out and good writing glows on the page. Reading as a writer lets you see both and learn from both.
So, much as I hate to admit it, PECO did me a favor by causing a power outage. They helped me get back to reading more and learning more.
Oh, and my computer? Well my best friend arrived when I called for help (not a panicky call!), he was able to see the problem and correct it immediately.
So, even with the power surging back now, I’m still reading and learning and will continue to make reading a part of the daily routine.