My husband is about to go on sabbatical. This is one of the perks of his profession, a chance to study and think for months every so many years. He’s done some wonderful things; we’ve done some wonderful things together, but I’ve always written while we’ve been away. There are no sabbaticals for writers. We call that being unemployed.
Years ago we had the opportunity to go to Australia and New Zealand for six months on our very first sabbatical as a family. We packed up all four children, ranging from four to fourteen, and off we went. There were no “laptops.” We shipped a Radio Shack Model II computer in the luggage compartment of the airliner. I remember watching from a foreign port as it was loaded on a conveyer belt and dropped from on high into the hold. Chalk up one for Radio Shack. Not only did it survive, I wrote a book on that computer while we were away. A little book, true, but a book nonetheless.
Ten years later we went to Australia again, and that time we took a real laptop. Two days into the trip the computer died. Try getting a US computer fixed in Australia. Try buying a new computer in Australia that will work once you get it home.
I had a book to write. I pulled out my yellow legal pad and dug in.
And that’s when the kindness of strangers came into play. Adelaide, Australia, where we were living, had a romance writers group. They asked me to speak, and I was happy to do it. These were truly lovely women. I’ve never met nicer. The next morning, though, I woke up to a phone call. As an icebreaker I’d told the group my computer story, and a member who heard it or heard about it had cleaned up her laptop for me to use. She didn’t know me. Now I’m not even sure she was at the meeting. But she dropped off her laptop that afternoon. She told me just to give it back before we left. I wrote a book on it. A little book, true, but a book nonetheless.
Ask yourself how many times strangers, people you’ve never met and will never meet again, have come to your rescue. It’s astonishing, isn’t it? You may need more than your fingers and toes to count them all. That one stands out for me. What a sweet memory it is.
This time, we aren’t going to Australia, and we aren’t hauling children. We’re starting in Chautauqua, New York, and today I typed “the end” on the book that will be due at the end of September. Instead of writing steadily I’ll spend this first month of my husband’s sabbatical making changes at my leisure, blogging, answering email and thinking about my next novel. But if something goes wrong, do I want to depend on the kindness of strangers? Nope, I’ve taken precautions. The book is on my laptop. It’s also on a flash drive. In addition I’ve emailed it to myself in its entirety and put it on my eReader. As my final piece of insurance, I’ve bought a netbook, just in case my laptop succumbs, as laptops seem prone to do.
Do I still trust in the kindness of strangers? Absolutely. My faith is strong. Need proof?
I still haven’t learned to change a flat tire.