Lightroom file management
LR likes the catalog in a top level folder, as well, place your actual image files in a top level folder on your external HDD. That's not to say that all images need to be in the same folder, but make a fodder called something like 'My Image Files' or somethng equally simple and descriptive, then when you import your images to that folder, you can put them in respective sub folders and LR will like that.
I love LR, and lately I have rarely needed to hop into Photoshop except for extreme customization or cloning and such.
Insanity is defined as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a differrent result. Taking the same shot, w/the same exposure and expecting greatness- Hasn't happened for ME, yet... How about you?