Starting From Scratch

March 12, 2015 § 2 Comments

It’s All In My Head writes,

I have a huge problem. I thought of the idea for a book about a year ago, and I’ve been writing for a long time now. It helped me through some really terrible times in my life throughout this year. I feel like the characters are family and they are my little secret. I love writing but recently my computer drive crashed and I lost just about everything. After learning that I will not be able to get my progress back I broke down. I’ve been crying and listening to sad music. No one gets why it would be so important, but it think you might be able to help. Is it all in my head? Should I really care this much? 

I’m reminded of sitting on the campus green as a freshman, listening to an upperclassman tell the horror story of the doc student who saved his entire dissertation on a single neon floppy disk. But you probably don’t even know what a floppy disk is But let’s take this in a different direction shall we?

There’s a lot of lost work out there, either due to the passing of time, negligence of the author, or crazy spouses. Or because some idiot maid thought that randomly tossing a large stack of papers into the fire was a GREAT idea. Robert Louis Stevenson torched draft one of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde when his wife criticized it. Dramatic, much?

You can’t do anything about the work you lost, but you can change your perspective. Have you ever read Little Women (or watched the movie)? When Amy is caught trading limes at school (what the hell does that even mean), she has to be homeschooled by Jo. Oh so bummed out, Jo doesn’t bring her little sister to the theater with her, and Amy tosses her manuscript into the fire. There’s a lot of screaming and crying, and then Jo almost lets her sister drown when they’re ice skating.

What I’m trying to say here is that having sisters is fucking horrible  one fangirl’s loss is also an opportunity. In the end, Jo ends up writing a new book that’s way better than that angsty shit she was so bent on. You can always come back to your fictional family, whether they’re saved on your hard drive or not. Because like you said, it is all in your head. But not in the negative sense. Nothing can take those stories from you. There is nothing wrong with caring too much about what you created. Nobody wants to read a novel written by someone emotionally detached from their characters. It’s about whether your passion pushes you forward or keeps you stuck in the same place.

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So before you return to what was lost, I’d like to challenge you to try something new. Open yourself to the possibility that there are new characters who’d like to introduce themselves to you. Or that maybe your own story or the stories of those around you are worth writing about. Maybe your previous writing was the dress rehearsal for the brilliant story that’s just waiting to leap out of your mind. Scream. Shout. Cry. Don’t drown your sister. Do whatever you need to grieve this loss. But don’t forget to perch your fingers over the keyboard and listen. If your mind can give you such a priceless gift, then who says it can’t do it again? Lightning never strikes twice in the same place, so start walking in a new direction.

I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.  – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

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§ 2 Responses to Starting From Scratch

  • Anonymous says:

    Hello, I’m the person who posted that question. This was so helpful and it inspired me to pick the book back up and start again (it also inspired me add some new things and characters). Thank you so much, I can’t even say how much you helped. I can’t wait to finish and look for publishing opportunities.

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