A Rough Night with a Blank Page

August 4, 2013
I just lost 20 pages of work on my book. Roughly 10,000 words. Around a week’s worth of writing. 60 KB. One stupid moment, and I lost so much effort. This is how it happened: I was just about to go to bed and I had my laptop sitting next to me, thumb drive in the slot. I reached for the blanket, trying to force my cat off the top, and the laptop fell on the floor, bending the thumb drive. My laptop refused to read it, and I panicked. My mom spent hours trying every trick she knew to get it back, but it didn’t work and I eventually just told her to stop trying. I cried and screamed like I was having a mental breakdown, and maybe I did, just a little. It wasn’t just so much time and effort, it was a piece of me.

I’ve been sitting here, so angry with myself. I keep thinking of every little thing I could have done. Saved the backup copy like I thought I should. Typed today’s piece on the desktop, saving the new copy there. Gone to bed like I said I would, rather than staying up to f*** around. Let my cat keep the blanket. There’s literally millions of things I could have and should have done to stop this from happening, and I didn’t, and that kills me inside.

I don’t just feel angry, but a little betrayed. I’ve worked hard, I haven’t been a little pretentious jerk about it, flaunting my talent and trying to coax compliments from the world. I’ve been relatively quiet, gushing to my mom and my friend every once in a while. I feel like I don’t deserve what happened. A little (maybe not so little) part of me thinks I’m being punished. I mean, why else would the computer have not created a temp file, or a cached copy? Why else would Word have been inexplicably set to not create any form of backup? Why else would the computer, despite reading the drive perfectly fine, insist reformatting was necessary? It aggravates me, especially when I’m forced to realize I’m the only one to blame.

And in the end, I’m ashamed. I cried like crazy, lost my cool completely and utterly, inadvertently making my mom to feel terrible for me and try to solve an unsolvable problem for me. So now, I feel like an ingrate and a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum. Some part of me insists that I was overreacting, but I know that’s not true. I honestly reacted the only way I could, I know that. I feel seriously sick, like I’m going to vomit, and I have for the past few hours. Every time I lay down to finally get some sleep, I feel a rock weighing down my heart and I can’t stand it. Every glance at the Times New Roman font is a punch to the throat. Tears force their way to my eyes each time I think too hard about it.

Every writer knows that when you write, you put yourself into your work. It’s like weaving a tapestry, interlacing plot, literary devices, vocabulary and threads of your own soul into the piece. You bond to your work like what it is: your child. You’ve created something wonderful, full of flesh and human breath and a dollop of magic. It’s an exhilarating and wonderful experience, and it makes you happy. And all of that joy, that magic and wonder means it hurts in an agonizing way when your child is taken away from you.

Of course, I can rewrite it, and I will, because to me giving up means I just don’t want it hard enough. And please, believe me, I do want it. I want it so bad. And I guess I never realized exactly how much I wanted it until I realized I was willing to do this, to go through this. Because I can rewrite it, but I can’t just rewrite it. Those twenty pages will never be the same, and I have to rewrite all of it knowing I will never quite capture exactly what I had ever again. And, eventually, I have to make peace with that, and hope against hope that whatever I come up with will be just as gorgeous and lovely and close to my own heart as the other pieces were.

This is something that is going to haunt me for a long time. Even now, as I sit here writing this, I’m wearing a mouth guard in preparation for the involuntary teeth-grinding that will follow sleep. This little bit of agony is never going away; it’s threaded through my heart forever, and maybe that’s okay. Maybe it just proves that no love is easy, especially a love for a craft, but if you can take the punishment, you’ll be okay in the end. Maybe not perfect, maybe not completely whole, but okay. For now, all I can do is try to make sure I remember the main plot details, the character development I need to get across, the general direction. Then I can go back and add my flavor, when I’m ready.

I have to let myself hope that things will turn out okay, because we all know hope is such a scary thing. Pain and fear are so strong, they can make you abandon what you love. But you can’t let them. They say nothing is scarier than a blank page, but a blank page previously filled with lovingly crafted print is worse. It’s the foundation of a burned down house; it’s the collar of a recently deceased pet, stashed in the night table drawer. In the end, you have two choices: you can run away, chased off by your pain and your fear, or you can bawl your eyes out, down that cup of coffee and start over again. I’ll let you make your own choice, but I know what mine is. Tomorrow is a brand new day, and a clean white page is waiting for me.

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