A couple of weeks ago, I did something stupid. Really stupid. Really, really, really, really stupid. So stupid that I’d always assumed I was nowhere near stupid enough to do it.
It appears I was wrong.
What I did was: I accidentally and permanently erased about half a novel-in-progress from my computer.
Reader, I cannot begin to describe to you the icy sweat that broke over my brow as I realised the sheer stupidness of the stupidity of the stupid thing I had just done. Well - I could, but you’d have to remove the family-safe filters from your browser to be able to read it. It was truly, truly horrible. Weeks of work down the pan. A good story fatally truncated, potentially forever.
I ran to the house and called my friend Marc, who knows considerably more than I do about Apple computers. He had some words of comfort. It was possible that the document was still on my hard drive somewhere. He gave me some software that might help.
I couldn’t load it.
At this point, I made the decision to write off the loss. It was still possible that I could have retrieved my lost work, but it was starting to look as if it would be quicker just to rewrite the thing. So I decided to do just that.
Now, those brave souls who have stuck with me this far will be saying: clearly this was the catastrophe, but where’s the happy bit?
Well, this was a happy catastrophe because it made me realise that I’d recently fallen into some very bad writing habits. I’d been letting other things get in the way of my writing much too much.
But losing so much of this first draft focused the old grey matter in a rather extraordinary way. It reminded me that, actually... I’m a writer. My job, my occupation, the thing that I do, is to write stories for children. All the other stuff that gets in the way is just, well, stuff that gets in the way.
So I put everything else aside. All those little distractions that’ll “only take a minute” instead took no time at all, because I didn’t do them. I got straight to work, and worked solidly. When that familiar little voice in the back of my head began to suggest that perhaps I was a bit stuck and should take a break, I ignored it and ploughed on. When I got that nagging feeling that there were other things I had to do, I reminded myself that I had to do this, and I kept writing. And in only two days, I’d rewritten the lost portion.
Better still, I was able to keep the momentum going. Another day and zooosh! - I’d completed the story. At the pre-catastrophe rate of progress, it should have taken another couple of weeks at least; but now, with my new awareness of my bad habits and the distractions that might have plagued me, I was once more writing at top speed.
So, that’s the story of my happy catastrophe - a reminder that every cloud really does have a silver lining.
At least, I hope it does, because three days later the publisher I’d been aiming this story at rejected it without actually having read it. Humph. When I find the silver lining in that one, I’ll let you know.
John's website is at www.visitingauthor.com
I'll be offline for a few days, so won't be able to join in any discussion in the comments, but I'll look forward to reading them when normal broadband is restored. Oh, and I now have a shiny new external hard drive and am backing everything up regularly...