Ever since I got diagnosed with cancer in August 2012, I have been acutely aware of the fact that professionally, things were going to change dramatically for me.
While I intend to beat this thing, I also need to consider that a lot of things will change for me – things that I can do, things that I won’t be able to.
One of the things that I probably won’t be able to do much of any more is travel heavily.
Much of my professional work involved talking to people – both clients, usually in their offices, and audiences, from a stage at events. I especially enjoyed visiting colleges and speaking students there.
This involved an insane amount of travel, lugging around equipment e.g. my notebook, presentation aids, etc.
But much more than presenting and talking was my writing.
I was always writing, no matter where I went or what I did. Every one of my talks was based on an essay I wrote, restructured, repositioned, tore apart and rewrote, before turning it into the talk I actually delivered. In the case of client work, this writing would become part of my documentation for them.
While I fully expect to be able to all these things again in the future, I did realise that technologically, I needed to make changes in my life to adapt to new circumstances.
One of these changes necessarily had to be my laptop.
Tools Of My Trade
Since 2009, I have used an Apple MacBook Pro 13″ running Mac OSX (it’s Unix – old habits die hard!), and what a great machine it was. I have steadily upgraded it over the years, to the current 8GB RAM 500GB hard disk configuration, and it has served me well, both for my writing as well as my presentations.
Except in one department: portability.
This was one heavy machine.
And that weight and size were now getting in the way of my new work style, which will still involve a lot of writing, but never in one place.
A change was needed, and badly. I needed a very light, powerful laptop, with a similar configuration to my old MBP. A “netbook” would not serve the purpose for various reasons.
Problem: that kind of configuration was way outside my circumstances-enforced budget. Way, way outside it, in fact.
But somewhere in my past life, I must have done something good.
One day in February, I get a call from my sister-in-law, Keerti, who works for the Microsoft mothership in Redmond. In her usual direct manner, she came directly to the point:
“Hey you – what can I do to get you back to writing again?”
Truth be told, I had stopped writing (three books, countless articles and essays, blog, etc) since my diagnosis, and a kickstart (or a pointy boot in the butt) was sorely needed.
And Keerti, who has known me for close to 30 years, knew this better than anyone else.
I explained my predicament – that in my current weakened state, and constant movement (home, hospital, etc), I simply couldn’t use my MacBook Pro anymore.
And despite my complete faith in my iPad – it couldn’t run my primary writing tool (an application called Scrivener, that every writer on planet Earth should be using, on OSX, Windows or Linux).
Next thing I know, Keerti conspired with my friend Sanjay Ramaswamy (another Microsoft engineer, working out of Beijing) to purchase an Apple MacBook Air 11″ 8GB RAM 512GB SSD i7 from Apple China, and have it shipped to me through a friend (my neighbour!) visiting Beijing.
This couldn’t have happened at a better time in my life.
I had just lost my dog Nicky, was desperately down in the dumps, the chemos were weakening the hell out of me, and I was losing the positivity that I had sworn I would maintain as part of my cancer treatment. I desperately needed new focus in my life, and my writing was definitely what I had to concentrate on.
The day the new MacBook Air (MBA) reached me, I went into another three-day chemo session.
And on the first day alone wrote almost 3000 words on my new laptop.
And have been writing at least 2000 words a day ever since.
The MBA is constantly with me, wherever I go – and all I need to do is lift the lid and start writing. The machine is so light and so portable, I don’t think twice picking it up and carrying it with me. So much so that I have started leaving my iPad behind!
I have managed to make serious progress on two of the three stalled books. The third one – a novel that I started in 2006 – needs some serious rethinking. Being pre-Scrivener, it has no notes, structure or character annotations, and so is total spaghetti. It will take a big effort to fix this, but I will try!
But the other two books are coming along nicely. Very nicely! As are a number of other writing projects I had planned.
Thanks to my sister-in-law’s gift, I am writing again.
Did I tell you that I must have done something good in my past life? Only way I can explain things like this.
p.s. Oh, and there’s an addendum! Shortly after the MBA was purchased, Apple dropped prices. Dramatically! So Sanjay called Apple China to casually enquire what our status would be, and Apple promptly refunded the almost $400 difference without even a moment of hesitation!
Apart from creating some of the best computing products in the world, Apple sure knows how to keep the customer satisfied.
p.p.s. People who know me, know that I always name my computers after a science fiction character. The old MBP was called Spock, the Thinkpad before it was Vader, the one before it Wookiee, and so on.
This time, it is different.
My new constant companion that will be faithfully at my side for years to come, deserves only one name:
If you have any comments, or wish to discuss this post, please do so on Twitter, where I interact under the ID @AtulChitnis