The unexpected benefits of forgetting to save your work

I wrote. It disappeared. I wrote again.

The other day someone sent me one of those stories where a writer ran back into a flooding building to retrieve his laptop because it had something like a 200,000-word novel stored on it. The first thing I did was shake my little finger and say to myself: “Come on, man, Google Docs!”

But even for those of us who have a rigorous saving regimen to protect our work, stuff happens. This week, I found that out when I spent an entire morning writing eight chapter summaries for my book proposal.

How exactly does one write eight chapter summaries in four hours? I can only move that fast when I’ve had the whole book outlined in scenes, so I wasn’t pulling this stuff out of nowhere.

Still, the time to write is a 100% privilege, and I managed to screw it all up by leaving my docs open, unsaved, on the computer, the same computer where my two children watch Netflix for their one hour of screen time every afternoon.

The work was lost.

I didn’t exactly flip out. Not really any sighing or head smacking or anything. It’s not like I have never experienced this before. Sure, I’ve been so much smarter lately — putting everything in the aforementioned Google Docs for posterity — but somehow I knew immediately that I would just have to do it again. No use punching myself in the gut about it.

Do it again.

Even if you already did it.

I get so attached to the idea of having written, of having reached my word counts. I see the documents with the doubled spaced lines and feel like I have been productive, when really, it is just the beginning.

This is why I also play the piano, by the way. Playing the piano is bout nothing but working through it. I have nothing to show for my piano practice after it’s over.

I got to work two days later recreating what I had lost.

But that’s not how it worked. The writing was better. The themes coalesced. The right scenes emerged more fully. What I ended up with by rewriting was so much better than what I would have had by editing.

This is the way of things. The metaphors for writing are always changing. Sometimes you’re clearing the brush on the path, other times you just take another one the next day and realize it had better scenery the whole time.

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