Much of this blog is, and will be, focused on my love for nature and how it inspires me. But I’d like a piece of this place to be about my creative endeavors and the things that I’m going through in regards to them. I sometimes draw, I sometimes craft, I sometimes paint and I write every single day of my life. Writing is the way I know to express myself best, the activity I’m most passionate about. So, I’d like to talk about it some. Though, I do wonder how helpful and entertaining a writer talking about writing can truly be. Let me know if content like this isn’t your cuppa.
This isn’t exactly common knowledge (though I’ve been a little vocal about it on Instagram and with close friends), but I’ve been working on a fiction book for a little over a year now. I haven’t particularly gotten far in terms of outlining and actual crafting because it’s taken me this long to sort out exactly what story I’d like to tell. There’s been three versions of the story to date, but I think I’ve settled on something. Or, at least, I like it. Finally!
I’ve grown up a little in terms of my writing process and thought through a rough outline for the plot and structure of the novel itself. Marriage to the events and timeline I’ve set for myself to follow isn’t anywhere in my mind, but I’ve found I do need some parameters so I keep on track and stop over analyzing. More importantly, I’ve been able to actually string together scenes I’ve had in my mind for so long into something that can make sense to other people and… tell an actual story.
But none of this is really what I wanted to discuss today. While making small steps on a goal I expect to take several years to complete is a beautiful thing worth sharing, I’m here to talk to you today about something much more sinister in nature: lost files. Also known as, a writer’s worst nightmare. Or, any digital creator’s worst nightmare.
“Lost” is a broad term that umbrellas over a variety of circumstances that would cause a file to be MIA. Accidents certainly happen. Computers get stolen unexpectedly every day, hard drives croak when least expected, and files find their way to the dark side only to corrupt themselves and become unusable. The most common reason a file gets lost is the act of casually sending it to the trash that appears to be past it’s prime and creatively deceased in every sense of the word, only to realize that that file was actually filled with weeks of hard work that could be given new life in the context of another work.
Though I’d been told almost once a week through university to never delete any of my writing, keeping all of my work from those four years and prior, since then I’ve managed to throw caution to the wind and delete almost everything I’ve written in my word processor since receiving my diploma. So, I’ve written a little in lots of documents only to kiss it goodbye the following year for whatever reason seemed worthy of culling it in the moment. Delete for not seeming good enough. Delete for not being worthy of doing anything with. Delete for being too dark and too weighted. And so on, and so forth.
The thing is, none of this unapologetic file-murder mattered until November 9th, 2019, while finally making some headway on my fiction project. I’d started version 3.0 in a different place, but ended up thinking I could reuse some writing I’d done in document 2.0 in the spring. Version 2.0 contained about a month’s worth of writing, forged from weeks of research on ancient military battles and coercion. It was brooding and harsh, which I didn’t think I wanted, but it turned out the establishment for the world I’d done there would work perfectly in my opening chapter. There was also a lot of great dialogue.
So I headed to my document folder to find version 1 of my book project, but no version 2. Understanding that I must have deleted it, I headed for my backups. No dice there either. Long story short, after checking a few other places and enlisting the help of my computer guy, turns out I’d removed the thing from existence. Nuked it from orbit. Wiped it from the map.
This is the second time this has happened to me. Once in college, when I’d had a printed copy of the piece I’d deleted that I could retype it, and on November 9th, 2019. This blow was a bit more painful, that I’d dare do this to a project I’ve been so mentally and creatively invested in for so long. My first instinct was to belittle myself. How could I be so stupid? My second instinct was to write about it in a semi-lighthearted way that others could hopefully learn from my mistake.
The reason you never want to delete any of your creative works, and I mean any of it, is because it all has value. Those embarrassing drawings and stories you wrote as an 6-year-old have value. The work you consider garbage from last year has value. If you did a crummy job and didn’t do it justice, or it didn’t turn out the way you thought when you gave your all, that’s fine. The work still has value and should be saved.
The value could be that you can reimagine that idea after you’ve grown as a creator a bit. Or, the value could be that you can recycle that idea into something else. Even if the value is simply that it exists, your creative work has inherent value. Creating something, bringing an idea to exist in some form in the world, means it meant enough to you in the moment to actually manifest it. And that, my friends, is why it’s important to archive everything you make.
I genuinely hope you heed my advice. Learn from my stupidity and mistake. Stop being so hard on your failures and fruitless efforts and unceremoniously laying them to rest in your computer’s trash bin, or your actual trash bin if physical medium is your thing. Let them exist unapologetically in an archive of all your glorious ideas that came to be in some awesome way, or a-horrible-nother.
After a couple tears in mourning the loss of version 2.0 of my fiction novel and the cathartic release of writing this piece, I read my thoughts aloud to Trevor. We both snickered and chuckled through the thing and he decided he was going to write a piece for his blog as well. This post will be more helpful than mine, based off the information we learned about how we were doing my computer backups (and/or doing them spastically). Essentially, how not to backup your computer. If the intricacies of backing up your creative endeavors and, well, any other endeavors you store digitally seems mildly interesting to you, I suggest you keep your eyes peeled for it. You can do that by subscribing to his blog, casually checking back there when you think of it, or the link that I’ll add once it’s live HERE.
Remember: respect your manifested ideas, my friends!