Sometime in the 1920s, Earnest Hemingway was working as a reporter in Switzerland and asked his wife to come for a visit and bring his fiction with her. She gathered his entire body of work into a suitcase and boarded a train in Paris. Somewhere along the line, she got up from her seat to step outside and when she returned the suitcase was gone.
Can you imagine how Hemingway felt, standing there, flowers in hand, waiting for his wife and his life’s work? (I imagined the flowers. But he did seem to have game, so surely he was waiting with flowers.) Then his wife’s train arrives and the anticipation builds. But before she steps down from the train, he sees her face twisted in torment and he knows something is wrong. And then she has to tell him.
His entire body of work. Gone.
Can you imagine the empty, desperate feeling he must have had at that moment?
Well. I’m feeling very Hemingway today. (Not something I often say.)
My laptop crashed a few months ago and I sent the hard drive off to be examined by an IT professional, who informed me yesterday that my files are irretrievable. He’s tried many times, he said, utilizing all the tricks he knows. And nothing.
So here I am, waiting at the train station, eager to see my body of work, excited about the possibilities of editing or expanding, remembering certain passages that made me feel something special, impatient to read them again and to feel the full emotional experience.
But I won't ever see that work again.
“Wait!” you might say. Just refer to the backup copies you surely saved and locked away in a cabinet somewhere. Right?
Well … now you should be imagining my sheepish face.
Because I don’t have backups.
Yeah, Jon Snow, I know. It was stupid of me.
But then you didn’t see that season finale coming, either, did you?
So maybe we all make mistakes.
Either way, according to the (in my opinion, grossly inexperienced) IT dude, I’m never seeing that body of work again.
All that passion I spilled out onto the page, all that work and anxiety and emotion, gone. All those hours of labor to make something feel right, lost.
I will have to start again. Just like Hemingway.
I mean, I don’t really have a choice. I can dwell on the loss of something or I can move on from it. So I’m trying to see this as a fated experience. I’m imagining all those crappy sentences I was holding onto, all those ugly paragraphs that will never go to print, the crutch of those tired, rusted ideas weighing me down.
Now I am free to move on from them and write something better.
And this time, I’ll make backups.