I posted earlier this week about my missing flash drive.
It’s now been a solid week since I realized it was missing, and having now cleaned the house and looked in every reasonable place three times (and the unreasonable places, once or twice), it’s hard to argue with the simple, impassive truth. It’s gone.
And because I’m an idiot, the missing little chunk of plastic and silicone has taken with it about 40,000 words of work — the bulk of almost three months daily wordhammering — on the latest novel.
Just gone. Not like somebody broke into my house and my TV, dvd player, and all my wife’s jewelry are missing — that sort of thing, while senseless and random, would at least make sense in a causal sense. There would also be the lovely spectre of somebody to blame. No, it’s rather like I went to the grocery store and came back to find my dog gone. All of her toys still strewn around the house. Sprouts of fur on her blanket and bed. Leash on the wall hook. But no sign of the mutt herself; just the back gate swinging in the breeze. The gate I forgot to close before I left the house.
It’d be tempting to think that it’s an awfully big coincidence that my entire project literally vanishes when I’ve been struggling so mightily with it over these past few months. Some of the days have been good, but most of them have been a bit too much like work, and as much as I like the central idea of the book, there’s just something … off about it. Maybe it’s the tone, maybe it’s the point of view, maybe it’s the setting; hard to pin down, but the idea just hasn’t caught fire with me the way I wanted it to.
So it disappears when I haven’t backed it up in months, and wipes out all those months of work.
But I don’t believe in coincidences; at least not in that cosmic, maybe it was meant to be kind of way. I’m furious with myself for losing it. I’m ready to throttle myself over the idiocy of failing to back up my project. And no matter how the project might have pained me, I don’t believe that simply throwing all that work out the window — literally, it turns out — would have been the best choice. Even bad writing sometimes reveals hidden gems, turns of phrase worth keeping, little narrative nuggets buried among the scree and scrap.
But I also don’t believe that it just happened. I think that, if I were really proud of this work, if I really felt it was worthy of my time, I probably would have safeguarded it a little bit better. I think if it mattered to me that much, I would have found the time to click a few buttons and back it up.
I don’t think me losing the flash drive and the project is the universe’s way of telling me that the project is wrong. I think that me losing the project was my own way of telling myself that the project was wrong.
Because here’s something I noticed in edits for my first novel: as much as I changed things, there was a hesitation to really deconstruct the thing, to shred it to pieces and rebuild the stuff I had spent so much time building the first time around. I did that deep rebuilding in places here and there, but a not insignificant portion of the first draft survived, coming through with only cosmetic changes.
With this project, though, I won’t have that option. I know the outline of what I wrote — the plotlines and the character developments that need to take place to get me to the middle — but I won’t have the fleshy bits, the meat of the story. I’ll have to rebuild all that.
Which is frustrating, but also kind of liberating. Not only am I not tethered by the shortcomings of the draft, but I can’t even see them in the rearview mirror. I’ve got no choice but to take this in an entirely new direction.
And the fact that I’m not filled with dread at the prospect tells me that, even though it burns worse than a throatful of rotgut bourbon, it doesn’t have to be all bad.
So maybe it’s just a coincidence that my project vanished into the ether when I was filled with so much doubt about it.
But I kind of don’t think so.
Maybe it’s just more likely that I’m devoted enough to this thing to turn this lemon — and man, is it a hell of a lemon — into something like lemonade.
Or maybe I have an alter ego who knows what’s best for my writing and chucked the thing in the garbage disposal while I thought I was asleep.
Either way, it’s time for a fresh start.
This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.
3 thoughts on “The Weekly Re-Motivator: No Such Thing as Coincidence”
Back slaps all round for the stellar job you’ve done in brightsiding what is the writer’s equivalent of a 1929 ‘Black Tuesday’ Wall Street Crash (where stock prices did not recover back to the same levels until 1954) but honestly, that has to be about as devastating as it gets.
Naturally you’ve considered the possilbilies of a forensic data retrival from an expert that may be able to locate the ‘ghost’ inprint those files made on your hard-drive even though you were saving it to a memory stick.
Like a lot of people who may have at one time in their lives followed the line that things happen for a reason, these days I’m far more of the belief that things happen and then we make up the meaning for them -afterwards.
If it’s any consolation, this post will definitely earn a mention in the Top 20 list headed your way in late December if nothing else for the laudable ‘chin up’ attitude you’ve displayed in the face of calamity. Bonus points as well for the consideration you’ve shown to readers in glossing over the less palatable details of the tears and drunken sailor invectives that must surely have been the chorus line at your place over the last week.
For what it’s worth, here’s two timely anecdotes from across the mists of time –
In the early 19th century Scots essayist Thomas Carlyle dispatched the first draft of his history of the French revolution – the imaginatively titled French Revolution, Vol 1 – to John Stuart Mill. The latter accidentally let his housemaid use the papers to kindle a fire. Paradoxically, Carlyle found himself consoling his friend, and later wrote: “Mill … remained injudiciously enough till almost midnight, and my poor Dame and I had to sit talking of indifferent matters; and could not till then get our lament freely uttered.” Carlyle had to reproduce the book from scratch, but it was eventually published in 1837.
In 1922, Ernest Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, was travelling by train to Switzerland, grappling with a suitcase containing all that the great man had written up to that point. According to Murphy’s Law – if something can go wrong, it will – the case was stolen. Legend has it that when Hemingway found out, he was rather irate. But when he started writing again, the words came crisper, faster and – some say – better. It’s just possible the Swiss crook behind this minor heist made the author into the literary behemoth we now cherish.
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“Things happen and we make up the meaning for them afterwards.” Yeah, basically, that’s what I’m trying to do here. I especially like the anecdote about Hemingway. Thanks for that.
As it turns out, I did some work on the novel while I was at home about six weeks ago, and that got auto-saved, so I have “recovered” about 25,000 words that I had written off (ha!). So that’s something, but it doesn’t actually change the heart of my post here; most of it will likely end up on the scrap heap anyway! Onward and upward!
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[…] No Such Thing as Coincidence. Not a revelatory post or anything, but a little spotlight on what I would consider some tremendous personal growth: earlier in my life, a setback like the one I suffered would almost certainly have had me throwing in the towel for good. But not this one, not me, not now. […]