Writing to Write

Being A Writer Personal Technology

So, while Levi was busy getting married, I was busy watching him getting married and then doing the Hokey Pokey at the reception. And then when I came back home, my refrigerator broke, my computer crashed, my blog’s database exploded, and then when I tried to log in to write my post here, WordPress was all, “Access DENIED. No, seriously. Go away.” The moral of this story is, of course, don’t come back from vacation. Take it from me. It’s a bad idea.

Anyway, even though I wasn't smart enough to stay on vacation, the refrigerator has been replaced, I bought a new computer, I fixed my database, and here I am writing this post. So it all ended up okay, and all, but when my computer died, I lost a lot of stuff. I haven't given up hope on being able to fish around in the dead tower and retrieve some things, though I wish I'd been more vigilant about backing stuff up in the first place (this is a lesson I thought I learned a few years ago the last time I had a computer die on me, but I guess it didn't stick). It's funny though, because I obsessively back up my photographs to an external hard drive, and I'm pretty good about backing up my iTunes, so the main thing I've lost is my writing. It's a lot of writing. I may be able to get it back or not, but I can't help finding it interesting that out of everything, this is the stuff I didn't bother to save. And while I know there was some good work there that it would be nice to have, the truth is that I wasn't all that upset about it. A little upset, sure, but definitely not as upset as I thought I might be, as I thought I should be.

I'm not sure what that means, or if it means anything other than I am careless, but I sure have thought about it a lot. The main question I ask myself is that if I can write pages and pages and do almost nothing to make sure they survive, and when they're lost I don't seem to mind too much, then why do I write in the first place? Why not just take up sudoku? I've given myself a few answers:

1. I hate sudoku.

2. Habit. I've been writing all my life (or at least since I've been literate, which has been, you know, a few years), and at this point it's just one of the things I do naturally. I sit down and write something every day, good or bad, serious or not. It's just a guarantee that at some point during my waking hours I will write something, even if it's only a couple of sentences. And when I'm not writing, I'm often thinking about it, planning what I'm going to write next. It's a compulsion, almost, minus the "almost" part.

3. Words. I love them. Fiercely, passionately. I love them in four languages, and I'd love them in more languages than that if I knew more. Despite the fact that they fail me all the time in my day-to-day, face-to-face life, despite the fact that they are approximations, I love them. And it's important to spend time with the ones you love.

4. Because I can. There are a lot of things in the world that I can't do, and I am aware of them, but I can write. I don't even suck at it.

Are those good enough reasons? Does it matter? I don't know. What I do know is that I'll keep writing, and maybe I'll even get better about preserving what I write. But even if I don't get better at it, even if everything I write remains momentary and impermanent, it's enough that I do it. So perhaps the biggest reason is that I write just for the sake of writing. Sometimes I write for an audience, most of the time I don't, and I am after the creating more than the creation, I suppose. Perhaps someday that will change, but for now the very best part is the act itself, the practice. Lining the words up neatly in well-formed rows and then doing it again.

6 Responses to "Writing to Write"

Sometimes you have to get rid of writing. It's true. Larry McMurty in his novel "All of my Friends are Going to be Strangers" has a fantastic scene where he drowns the novel that he has been carrying around with him (in manuscript form) for years. He drives to the Rio Grande and drowns it. And then he feels better.

by jaimef on

I've lost part of my portfolio containing Advertising Campaigns, Short stories, Photography, Theatre scripts & block notes...I've lost my mind! The good news is when talented like yourself, you'll never lose the ability to write more great stuff!

by Duncan Brown on

Writing is a karmic thing, possibly of beauty.
If it isn't nailed down like Christ, you'll lose it
Unlike a saviour or other such luminous creatures, it doesn't ressurect itself in three days, or three years.
Lost manuscripts are an unwritten novel or ten, but it would be tempting fate to write it.

by Caryn on

I don't think you need a reason, really. Plus it's nobody's business. Except mine.

I can relate to losing writing (or other things) -- while it can definitely be very frustrating, in some ways, it can also be very liberating. Like shredding incriminating evidence. Or eating an entire can of Pringles.

by Cal Godot on

Regarding backups: if you don't have automated, regular, incremental backups of your data, then you may as well not bother with it. A backup system that depends on (1) human memory and (2) human action is about as reliable and worthy as no backups at all. It is inevitable that data loss will occur and the latest backup will be of little/no help.

Mac users these days are lucky: MacOSX has a good built-in backup system. Windows users are less fortunate: the built-in backup system Microsoft supplies is less friendly and quite kludgy. You can set up a simple, reliable system which backs up only certain folders (you do NOT want to do a full system backup) and which performs the functions overnight. If you don't want your system to run all night, you can often configure your system to shut down automatically when your backups complete. It requires some learning and a little effort, but it pays off in the dozens.

It's a good idea to develop a healthy backup habit, if only for the day when you are working on something important and your system breaks down. I learned my lesson the hard way: before I did regular backups of my system, I exhibited the same carefree attitude on display here. I even lost stuff important to me and still didn't implement a reliable system. It was when I lost a project that was making money that it sunk in: had I been in the habit already, or had a good automated system in place, I would not have lost the data or the money.

As for "reasons" to write: any reason is a good one. I write because I have to, because I find myself driven by the demons Faulkner referred to when he expressed his opinion on the matter. Writing helps stave them off.

Plus, chicks dig it. ;)

by Thebes on

I've written for many reasons which have all settled into the simple act. Writing used to glue me together. Guess I'm glued. There's no money, fame, respect, and little joy in poetry, it is done just to do--to see what the words will do if I poke them.

When I have lost things it has been terribly painful- but for a very short time. I don't know why, either. However, I have developed an obsessive backing up problem. Macs, as has been said, are easy to back up. Why again escapes--as I said, I wouldn't be so upset.

Perhaps it is (as I *know* it was for me) a kind of cane for the mind, something to de-pressurize.

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