Last week, I didn’t publish anything. Not for lack of trying. I got to the last paragraph and boom…Windows update. Like a lot of people, I’d exhausted my option to put off the update until later. Everything just shut down. When I logged back in, I went to my word document, and a message popped up that said the file could no longer be opened. The file had been corrupted and I’d lost all my work.
Losing work is one of the most frustrating events. I remember working on the student newspaper in college until 4 or 5 in the morning and losing an entire page of the paper near the very end of a work night. It’s a morale hit that can be hard enough get through. At 4 or 5 in the morning, I’m luckily loopy enough to maniacally throw aside my worries. But, at the end of a normal day of work, enough energy exists that I can actually experience the depth of despair that comes from losing all the work I just put in.
The hardest part about losing something you created is getting back into a creative mood. Creativity can be fickle. It can be inspired by feelings but it can also be destroyed by them. This is where one’s lose-your-S@!# meter comes into play. After years of experiencing the loss of newspaper pages and articles, I liked to think that I’ve got pretty thick skin for when random destruction occurs. But, sometimes that lose-your-S@!# meter gets reset. For some reason or another, losing something can bring you to the ground, even if you’re experienced with having to restart. There is something fresh about each occurrence.
So last week, I took a break from my work. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t get myself to power through a re-rendering of my article. I couldn’t possibly think about the same topic again and have to restart the process of getting those thoughts on the page once more. Not right away anyway. Usually, writers have deadlines to deal with so this would not have been an option for me in a workplace environment. This got me thinking about what I would say to my past self if, in the final minutes before a deadline, I lost a piece of work that needed to be published very soon.
Firstly, save your files. Then duplicate them. Then, put them on a backup drive and your other devices. Save yourself the trouble of ever having to deal with lost work. This piece of advice is nearly always met with a collective “duh” from people who hear it. But most people don’t expect anything to happen to them and elect not to back up their files to keep their work safe anyway. Don’t be that person.
In these cases, all you can rely on is your pure force of will. Buckling up and taking the challenge head-on is the only way. And the more often you have to do it, the better you get at compelling your own determination. However, this is not necessarily something you want to plan for because it’s not very enjoyable to be in that situation.
This is partially why I like to be working on more than one piece. If something happens to the content I’ve already created or writer’s block hits me, I have something else to shift my focus to while I untangle the complexity of or get through mourning the loss of the article that I have nearly finished. Working on more than one writing project also gives you a backup idea that can minimize immediate suffering.
Ultimately, your ideas are fragile. They are beautiful results of your own unique human experience. Treat them with respect because they might not be around forever. Being able to capture those ideas is a gift. Treating that gift with care and giving your ideas the greatest chance of survival is the key to being a great writer. And that is a lesson I hope I don’t have to learn again…