So this morning the curse of Monday hit. Normally I would be posting my thoughts on Odyssey Con from the weekend, but not today. To give you all the proper frame of reference to this situation I need to give two pieces of history, one of which is a bit of a spoiler to this weekend. But we do as we must.
Steven Barnes, one of the Guests of Honor this year at OddCon and arguably one of my favorite authors (which I will get into later), spoke several times through the weekend on how all things boil down to Two Questions. (Capitalization is added by me for the emphasis on the concept becoming an ideal.) Who am I? What is the Truth? Everything you do is part of answering those two questions. I know, pretty philosophical stuff for a guy whose online persona involves a decaying, ambulatory cannibal. I’ll dig deeper into this more in my processing of the weekend (next blog post), but sufficed to say the concept touched on something from my high school to college days lost in the haze of a concussion. In short, it reminded me of who I am, helping to answer the first question. But more on that later.
Additionally we must consider that my critique group has determined that I need some conflict, some punch at the end of chapter three of my work in progress. Something that an agent or editor would hang on to if they request the first three chapters. So, about a week and a half ago, I started a new document in my Storyist project to write Chapter Three. My reasoning behind doing it that way is unimportant and I may touch on later. All that is needed for our purposes here is that I had a file with just the new chapter three I’ve been working on this past week.
Saturday morning at OddCon, I was sitting in the lobby intending to work on chapter three as I didn’t make the cutoff for the spontaneous writing contest. With the distractions around the lobby, I could have pulled off the contest but I didn’t have the flow going to work on the manuscript. Also, after a couple of paragraphs Kimberly sat down near us. She’s a freelance editor here in Wisconsin that had joined in on NaNoWriMo this past year. I talked with her for a while and waited for Paul to come find me to help set up the room for Steven Barnes’ tai chi session. Fast forward to the panel after I did the tai chi and from my bag I can hear music playing softly. Actually I recognized it because it was one of the punk songs from the Unholy Ghosts playlist. I turned off the music on the iPad and locked it.
This morning what I discovered is that due to me leaving the document open that morning, the trip in my bag had highlighted all the text and replaced it with gibberish. At first I had thought the file was corrupt and checked my full document (which was backed up, unlike my new chapter three one). Once I realized what had happened it dawned on me that it was my own error that had caused the loss of around 4-5k words over the past week. A minor nightmare for an author, the full document would be worse. As a side note, if you ever hear of me getting 30-90k into a story and not backing it up, sweep the leg like I am in the Karate Kid movie.
Here is where the Two Questions come into play. This is where I need to answer them.
Had this been at the start of my trip down the road to become a working author I would have likely freaked out. Tears are not assured, but there would have definitely been expletives and likely some striking of inanimate objects with high amounts of velocity. But that would not have been who I am. As I stared at the gibberish on the screen and pieced together what had happened, my internal monologue actually said, “Who am I?”
I remembered back to the hazy times of my martial arts classes in high school, about two years into my four year training stint. We were learning self-defense holds and breaks and the instructor was waiting for me to follow through on the move. He wanted me to force him down to the mat. So I did. He got up with a smile, looked and Sensei and said, “I knew there was a warrior in this one.” So, today when I asked “who am I” the answer was a warrior. I am not the kind of person that would let something like this break me.
Also, who I am is a person with (what I call) an Instagram Memory. It’s like a photographic memory, except fuzzier, crappier and while it looks good at parties, there are very few instances where it would land you a job or a paying gig. What having an Instagram Memory (another answer to who I am) means is that the entire re-written scene/chapter (complete with new foreshadowing and a different ending) is still in my head. Some of the better lines are still there as well. In short, I simply have to go through and draw them back out again, only now I have the chance to refine them again. I can make the chapter even better.
As for what is the truth, that is even easier to define. The truth is I need to do a back-up of my work at night as I cannot do it while working in the mornings as the coffee shop is a wifi free zone. Had I exported the file to Dropbox or to my email, I would’ve had a recovery plan. Also it has reminded me to not only drop out of the app when shutting down, but to lock the screen instead of just closing the cover to put it in sleep mode. In other words, the parameters of the writing world I’m in include closing out and locking down. I took it for granted that shutting the unit would be enough. I directly caused this problem and now I know not to do it again.
So, sitting in the coffee shop I stared at the screen, answered these questions and came to terms with what I needed to do. I wrote a journal entry on it (most of which is contained here), drank my iced americano, and then restarted the chapter on my newly cleared document. The 450-500 words I managed this morning was the same opening of the scene, but because I was writing it fresh I was able to describe it more clearly (and succinctly) giving it more pop. At least I think it did. We’ll see once I hand it over to my critique group.
No ulcer, no high blood pressure, no rage. Just acceptance and moving on. All due to two little questions with big answers. I think I’m going to be using those two for a long time.