"My talent is.... resurrection."
I'm a huge James Bond fan from way back - I was very nearly named Sean, in fact, in honor of Sean Connery himself, who had, as it turned out, absolutely nothing to do with my birth. So in the recent movie "Skyfall", there is a whole subtext about how Bond himself is considering (in a manner only 007 himself could address) the whole "I'm too old for this buggering rubbish" and at one point is asked by the villain what his talent is, and Bond replies... "Resurrection."
I always thought that line was perhaps a bit too meta, maybe a bit too over the top. But then.
There I was, last week, grinning contentedly about the recent push on my current manuscript, within spitting distance of its first draft conclusion. I sat at my desk on Saturday morning, got ready to start writing, and my computer informed me that it needed to do a quick update. I shut all my programs down, and told it to go ahead with the update. A brief warning flashed on my screen indicating that my Word file for the manuscript was still open, but when I went to close it, the warning vanished. Crisis averted, I thought.
A half hour later, I restarted the machine and clicked on the file, and got that message - - - you know what I'm about to say, don't you? - - - "Unable to open file. File corrupted."
I tried it again. And again. I tried it on a different computer. Same result.
I think I screamed. A deep throated gutteral scream, like the kind you make as you see the wall of lava pouring down over your head, or the earth splitting wide beneath your feet. It wasn't quite the Wilhelm scream, I'm thankful to say. But it was enough to alert my entire household, who rushed to my office, fearing the worst. My wife tried to work on the file - she's got some mad techie skillz, yo - and I got some great advice from the internet and my friends, but... the file is dead.
Thankfully, I had sent myself a copy of the file just a week before, from some random "hey, we're getting close, wouldn't it be horrible if this file got lost?" fear, and though I had another fear like that a week later, I only sent one the first time.
As a result, some 15,000 words are gone. Gone. Forever. Including an impossibly difficult scene which I dreaded writing and still oddly enough did not feel wonderful about.
I cried. Yes, I cried. I sobbed like you do when you have lost something you feel is precious to you. It was a hard 15k, and I felt its loss.
Today - three days later - I looked at the file one last time, and said goodbye to it. I uploaded the back up I'd made more than a week ago, and surveyed the damage. Yes, it was as bad as I thought. Entire elaborate scenes, all vaporized and gone as if they had never existed.
But out of nowhere, a realization appeared to me. In life, we get no real second chances - not really. We make mistakes, we deal with loss and failure, and we carry with us the lessons (hopefully) of those catastrophic moments. We can choose to move on, try a different tack, or look for an entirely different path to an entirely different goal. But loss can be more than a stripping away of our energy and time and effort.
In the world of fiction, it can be much more than that. It is a do-over. A rewriting of the world we have been creating, an opportunity to pick things up and re-create them, even better. We can resurrect the dead and let it live again, even better.
And so my manuscript picks up and lives on. I took the moment to invent a martial arts style, a 12-point philosophy that mirrors the chromatic scale to the art of war and sword blade design, and even indulges the sword-fighting disciplines of kendo, destreza and lightsaber combat. The path of the 12. It's a bit ambitious, or perhaps its self-indulgent. But there is a point and a purpose to it, which suddenly makes the first of my resurrection chapters make so much more sense than it did when I first wrote it.
So, I suppose if this is any indication, the other chapters will be even better, as well.
Even that one I really am dreading having to write.... again.
So a couple of good lessons from this past week: embrace failure as an opportunity to do it better; give yourself time to grieve, and then get back on the horse; and, most importantly - - - make a fricking backup copy.