Columns > Published on February 2nd, 2017

A Writer's 5 Stages of Computer Failure

Last month, my MacBook died. I was in the process of editing a manuscript when my mouse cursor transformed into the spinning wheel of death. I feel like this mechanism is misleading, because every time I see the spinning wheel of death I initially feel hopeful that I might get a chance to play Wheel of Fortune, but of course there’s never any Wheel of Fortune. There’s nothing fortunate about the spinning wheel of death, except for its very metal name. I waited a good half hour, but it never resolved itself, so I powered the machine off manually and rebooted it. Instead of directing me to a login screen, I was presented with a giant question mark inside of a gray folder.

I did not know what my laptop was trying to communicate, so I Googled the issue on my cell phone, and discovered “giant question mark inside of a gray folder” basically translates to “LOL you’re boned.” My MacBook could no longer locate its hard drive. It ceased operating within seconds. My life crumbled in front of me and there was nothing I could do.

What followed were the classic 5 Stages of Computer Failure:


01. Denial

This isn’t happening. Macs aren’t supposed to randomly shit the bed like this. If I’ve learned anything from the commercials, they are indestructible killing machines. They can survive anything. Right? RIGHT? Oh wait. Crap. When was the last time I backed up my work? Think, goddammit, think. Remember last week, when you received a notification saying something like “You have not backed up your computer in 6 months, you stupid fool”? Well there’s your answer, genius. Six months? No. That can’t be right. ...Right? Oh shit oh shit. You have three novels-in-progress you’ve worked heavily on within the last six months, not to mention the fifteen thousand words you knocked out on that novella just this last week alone. All of it. Lost? No. Not possible. The computer’s fine. This is just a glitch. All I gotta do is turn it off and back on again. It’ll work this time. And if not, maybe the third reboot will be the charm.

02. Anger

SHIT SHIT SHIT FUCK FUCK FUCK OH GODDAMMIT MOTHERFUCKER YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT WHY DIDN’T YOU JUST PLUG IN THE EXTERNAL HARD DRIVE YOU'VE HAD SIX GODDAMN MONTHS WHAT WERE YOU WAITING ON I MEAN FOR SHIT’S SAKE MAN IT’S RIGHT THERE ON THE DESK NEXT TO THE LAPTOP WHY WAS IT EVER UNPLUGGED IN THE FIRST PLACE EVERYTHING YOU’VE WRITTEN AND EDITED IS LOST FOREVER THERE’S NO WAY YOU’RE GOING TO REMEMBER IT ALL NO WAY YOU’LL REWRITE ANY OF IT AS GOOD AS YOU FIRST WROTE IT WHY DON’T YOU JUST FACE IT YOU NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN A WRITER YOU NEVER SHOULD HAVE EVEN BEEN BORN YOU STUPID OINKFUCK SCUMBUCKET PISSANT UUUGGGGHHHHHHHH I WILL FLOOD THE PLANET WITH THE SHATTERED TEETH OF MY ENEMIES

03. Bargaining

If you are a loving God, you will help me...man, or woman, or whatever you are. Let’s see some of that kickass god magic.

Dear God, I know I’ve said a lot of screwed up things about you in the past, but I’m talking to you now. I apologize for doubting your existence. I totally believe you’re a real thing. So I’m begging you. Please. Please fix my laptop. Please don’t let me lose any of my writing. I know. I was a fool to doubt you and I was an even bigger fool not to back-up my work. I realize that now. But trust me. If you get me out of this jam, I’ll go to church every Sunday and plug in my external hard drive every Monday. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, too. I’ll be more careful in the future. I really need this, okay? The deadline for that anthology is in a week and there’s no way I can rewrite an entire novella in time to submit. There’s a lot of money at stake here and I could really, really, really use it. Bills are due. The fridge is empty. I can’t afford to miss out on submitting this novella and I definitely can’t afford to buy a new laptop. If you are a loving God, you will help me. If you are real, you will prove it. Now’s your time, man, or woman, or whatever you are. Let’s see some of that kickass god magic.

04. Depression

Two days have passed and I am still receiving the giant question mark inside of a gray folder. I mentioned my issue to a co-worker and he laughed and said, “That’s what you get for buying a Mac!” then walked away. I’m not even mad. Maybe he’s right. Maybe this is what I get for buying any kind of computer. This is my punishment for being selfish enough to believe I could ever be a writer. This is what I deserve. I’m nothing. The question mark in the gray folder represents my future as an artist. My laptop no longer possesses a hard drive and I no longer possess a will to care. I was supposed to lose all of my work. It was never meant to be read. It was trash, all of it, total trash. I understand that now. My laptop is shit and I, too, am shit.

05. Acceptance

You know what? These things happen. Computers screw up sometimes. That doesn’t mean they can’t be fixed. Maybe all of my writing is still salvageable. And if it isn’t? That’s okay, too. I’ll just write other things. It’s not the end of the world. Nothing is going to stop me from writing. Well, death might stop me from writing. But besides death...Okay, if I lost my hands in some kind of freaky accident, that would also stop me from writing. Or, like, if I banged my head really hard and forgot what words mean. Maybe there are many things that could theoretically end my writing career, but computer failure isn’t one of them. This isn’t ideal, but it isn’t the end of the world.


I eventually took my Mac into Best Buy and got it repaired. The SATA cable needed to be replaced. The diagnostic run cost more than I care to admit. However, none of my work was lost, and I was able to submit my novella before the aforementioned anthology closed. I am stoked to announced it was also accepted a few weeks later, which I guess makes up for the cost of the diagnostic run and then some, but still, goddamn, I never realized Best Buy is secretly operated by a clan of vampires. If you're curious, the anthology is the upcoming Garden of Fiends published by Wicked Run Press. The novella's called "Everywhere You've Bled and Everywhere You Will", which is sort of an appropriate title for the mental hell I went through trying to finish and submit it.

Lesson of this article?

Don’t be a lazy jerk.

Back-up your work.

About the author

Max Booth III is the CEO of Ghoulish Books, the host of the GHOULISH and Dog Ears podcasts, the co-founder of the Ghoulish Book Festival, and the author of several spooky books, including Abnormal Statistics, Maggots Screaming!, Touch the Night, and others. He wrote both the novella and film versions of We Need to Do Something, which was released by IFC Midnight in 2021 and can currently be streamed on Hulu. He was raised in Northwest Indiana and now lives in San Antonio.

Similar Columns

Explore other columns from across the blog.

Book Brawl: Geek Love vs. Water for Elephants

In Book Brawl, two books that are somehow related will get in the ring and fight it out for the coveted honor of being declared literary champion. Two books enter. One book leaves. This month,...

The 10 Best Sci-Fi Books That Should Be Box Office Blockbusters

It seems as if Hollywood is entirely bereft of fresh material. Next year, three different live-action Snow White films will be released in the States. Disney is still terrorizing audiences with t...

Books Without Borders: Life after Liquidation

Though many true book enthusiasts, particularly in the Northwest where locally owned retailers are more common than paperback novels with Fabio on the cover, would never have set foot in a mega-c...

From Silk Purses to Sows’ Ears

Photo via Freeimages.com Moviegoers whose taste in cinema consists entirely of keeping up with the Joneses, or if they’re confident in their ignorance, being the Joneses - the middlebrow, the ...

Cliche, the Literary Default

Original Photo by Gerhard Lipold As writers, we’re constantly told to avoid the cliché. MFA programs in particular indoctrinate an almost Pavlovian shock response against it; workshops in...

A Recap Of... The Wicked Universe

Out of Oz marks Gregory Maguire’s fourth and final book in the series beginning with his brilliant, beloved Wicked. Maguire’s Wicked universe is richly complex, politically contentious, and fille...

Learning | Free Lesson — LitReactor | 2024-05

Try Reedsy's novel writing masterclass — 100% free

Sign up for a free video lesson and learn how to make readers care about your main character.

Reedsy Marketplace UI

1 million authors trust the professionals on Reedsy. Come meet them.

Enter your email or get started with a social account: