2 Guaranteed Ways to Know You Need a New Computer

Most writers and editors live on their computers, tablets, and smartphones. Even those who prefer to write or edit longhand often transfer their work to an electronic medium at some point in the process. When things go wrong with electronics, we writers and editors are not happy campers.

As a freelance editor, I probably do 95 percent of my work on screen. It’s faster than editing longhand, and it has the added bonus of saving a tree (printing out a full-length book requires 300–400 pieces of paper). There’s also the instant gratification of working via tracked changes, which allows both the writer and the editor to see suggested edits and then decide which to accept and which to reject. (For more about tracked changes, check out The Shock: How to Survive Your First Round of Editing.)

So with my dependence on computers firmly established, I’d like to share two surefire ways to know when it’s time to replace your current computer. 

Your First Clue

You know how frustrated you become when your internet connection goes down, and you feel like you’re wasting hours of time? Now imagine you’re on a deadline to return edits to an author who’s been patiently waiting and nail-biting for several days or weeks while you’re editing … and your computer freezes. You finally get it working again . . . and it freezes again.

You try everything you can think of to get rid of what is lovingly referred to as the Spinning Wheel of Death (that colorful, spinning circle that acts like an emoji that says, “You’re in trouble now”). And in your heart of hearts, you know it’s time to start budgeting for a new computer because this one is old and slow, and it’s letting you down—a lot.

Your first clue that you need a new computer? The Spinning Wheel of Death. #apple #mac #amwriting #amediting Click To Tweet

“I can get by, make due with the computer I have,” you tell yourself, because the thought of spending all that money just doesn’t sit right. But Old Faithful just isn’t anymore, so instead of splurging on that latte you’ve been promising yourself all week, you sigh and put five dollars into your New Computer Fund.

That Spinning Wheel of Death is a serious hindrance to my productivity—and since it’s summer and the windows are open most of the day, I suspect my neighbors are getting tired of hearing me whimper in frustration. I’ve been budgeting for a new computer in 2017, so I figured I could nurse this one along for another six or seven months. Sometimes, though, the best-laid plans fly out the proverbial window (along with my sighs), as mine did last week.

Your Second Clue


Ways to Know You Need a New ComputerMy pet cockatoo ate my computer, which—trust me— is much worse than “My dog ate my homework.”

Computer Death via Office Pet

Princess Potentate Snowflake von Foss (aka Snowflake) is my office pet. She sits on her perch while I edit and (for the most part) lets me work in peace. She is only caged at night or if I leave the house during the day. Her favorite game is stealing a fresh flower from a vase across the room; she makes short work of those she pilfers:

When I’m on the phone, Snowflake likes to join the conversation with nonsensical chatter, which can make speaking with clients rather challenging. I’m crazy about her, and I try to give her plenty of attention, but she reminds me of a toddler: if there’s trouble to be found, she’ll find it.

One afternoon last week, I was leaving the house in a hurry and forgot to check that Snowflake’s cage, which she had climbed into herself, was locked. I wheeled the cage next to my desk so she could look outside and enjoy the fresh air; my laptop was open. When I returned an hour later, my laptop sat in pieces on my desk.

Snowflake sat quietly in her cage, but the keyboard was so damaged that I couldn’t even turn the computer off.

In hindsight, I see so many ways I could have avoided this disaster, but the moral of this story is never underestimate the abilities of a bored toddler (or a parrot). And start budgeting for your new computer today, especially if you have an office pet!

A trip to the Apple Store the next day made me almost famous; I quickly became known as The Parrot Lady. My brand-new laptop is so shiny and fast, though, that I’ve almost forgiven Snowflake . . . but you can bet I have a new habit now: I close my laptop before I walk away, even if I’m just getting up to grab a cup of coffee!


Candace Johnson is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here, and follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

8 thoughts on “2 Guaranteed Ways to Know You Need a New Computer”

  1. Hi Candace!
    Don’t be so hasty to get a new machine.
    If you are experiencing Clue Number One, a few things can save lots of money. Firstly, check that your hard drive has at least 15 – 20% space free. Do a clean up if necessary. There’s also the defragmentation feature under the properties of the C drive (Windows only). Run this to see if defrag needs doing. This also helps. The second thing you can do which is cheaper than a whole new machine is to simply buy more RAM. Computer shops will be able to help and advise if this is a suitable solution in your particular case.
    If you are a victim of Clue Number Two, and you have a couple of hours on hand, and a fair bit of patience, you should be able to clip all those keys back in place. Or find a handy friend who likes a challenge and a tray of cupcakes or a case of beer! Certainly doable and cheaper than a new computer.
    Good luck! 🙂

    1. Hi Richard! Too late—already purchased. Your tips are very helpful, and I will save them for the future, but my keyboard was so damaged that it couldn’t even be turned off. Snowflake not only popped the keys off, but she chewed on some of the underportions of them—the keyboard was a total loss. It is now in the shop for repairs, but I couldn’t go for a week without working … and I did have some money saved toward a new one. (And I have to admit, it’s always fun to get a new toy, even if it is for work!) Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Another MacBook Air, just a newer version of the old one. I love how fast and shiny it is—and the keyboard comes free of crumbs, too! 😉

  2. Dear Candace, So happy you have a shiny, fast new laptop! And, so glad that Snowflake wasn’t turned into a soufflé 😉 She certainly is efficient with those flowers! I only wish you had a nanny-cam in your office so you could post a video of her picking your keyboard apart like a Gerbera daisy! lol!

  3. Hi Candace: what a story!! I know I need one because of frequent frustration of freezes and unpredictable ability to grab portions of text to delete or move. So far, I’ve suffered and moved along. I’m on a PC and my son offered to give me his Mac Air so he can upgrade. Think I’ll let him know it’s about time to purchase his new toy. Quite a royal child you have there!

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