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Losing It – A Writer’s Computer Crash Nightmare

January 13th, 2015 No comments
Laptop

A reenactment of Lancelot’s final day. (Credit: David King, Flickr)

On Saturday 12/20/14, I achieved one of my big goals for the year – I finished the first draft of the fourth novel in my Girl With Broken Wings Series, Leaping. It was messy, pitted with problems, and filled with enough plot holes to give Swiss cheese a run for its money.

In other words, it was a beautiful, healthy, perfect first draft. Full of promise and potential. I had plans for that draft. I would carefully guide and sculpt it until it finally matured into a strong, confident novel and that could go out into the world and make an impression.

You’d think that the very first thing I would do after this ecstatic moment would be to back up my computer or immediately throw my baby onto the cloud so she’d never be lost.

I didn’t.

Sometimes I’m a moron.

Instead, I hopped in my car, picked my sister up from the airport, and bragged about my new little baby all the way back home. Little did I know that the gods of hubris were waiting and watching. I imagine a good cop, bad cop scenario here. The mean God of Hubris was probably throwing handfuls of popcorn in his mouth, and chuckling, “I bet her eyes bug out and she starts crying.”

The good God of Hubris would sigh and say, “She still has time to back up. Why doesn’t she just back up?”

***

The meltdown happened on the morning of Christmas Eve. The day before, my curmudgeonly laptop Lancelot was grumbling along as usual, almost daring anyone to mock his missing question mark key. The next morning he was gone. Just like that. I pressed his start button, and all I got was a Toshiba screen that never transitioned into my desktop.

“Come on Lancelot, speak to me!” I cried, gripping his edges. “Come back to me Lance. Please, just open your writing file!”

But it was not to be. Lancelot’s hard drive had given out during the night. I suppose it was a peaceful death, but still a shock to me. Lancelot and I had shared so much together…including my completed first draft of Leaping.

It now hung in the balance. Did Lancelot take it to his grave, or could it be saved?

The timing was really bad. I spent Christmas Eve trying uselessly to fix Lancelot while fulfilling my family obligations to show up for dinner and take pictures, and chauffeur my sister around town. By the time it really dawned on me that Lancelot wasn’t coming back, all the tech stores were closed…and would stay close the next day, Christmas.

***

That night, I lay in bed and let the panic wash over me. Children all over the world were waiting to hear footsteps on their roof or the jingle of a sleigh bell, and all I could think was – Can I really rewrite this book from scratch?

A book is more than the sum of its words and pages. A writer puts a piece of their heart into every book. Hours of writing aren’t just time. They’re creative energy. Each word is just perfect in that moment even if it will be changed or scrubbed later.

I could never get those exact words back. That unique, magical combination of spirit. Even the thought of starting over again exhausted me to my core.

I could do it, I thought. I must do it. My readers deserved a completed series, and I deserved it to. I’ve spent five years writing The Girl With Broken Wings Series, and the thought of never finishing was simply not an option.

But I knew that I would need to take a break before I could rebuild. Maybe start a new series from one of the many ideas constantly clanging in my head for attention. I needed to forget my previous words so that when I started on Leaping again I could write it fresh, instead of trying to capture an echo.

That Christmas, I spent the whole day with my family. It was joyful and uplifting, and I took the time to recognize how lucky I was to be supported and loved…but I didn’t unwrap the thing I really wanted.

***

I did get Leaping back, along with almost all of my other files. It wasn’t Santa Clause or even the Geek Squad guy who made this post-Christmas miracle happen. (In fact, Geek Squad guy basically rammed a router through my gut by telling me the prognosis for rescuing anything off the hard drive was poor…and super expensive.) It was my kind-hearted, techie friend Ben who rescued Leaping and a lot of other really important files from computer file purgatory.

Ben isn’t a guy who will paint his face in camo and go jumping out of a helicopter to rescue hostages, but he’s definitely a hero to me. He saved something that I would have never been able to remake the same way.

This incident has not only taught me the value of backing up and why it’s important to surround yourself with smart, loyal people. The real possibility of losing my manuscript showed me how intangible writing is. I never really appreciated how valuable and magical words can be until I almost lost them.

And did I mention backing up? I am back-up queen now.