Pretty much the worst thing that can happen to you as a writer is to finish up a draft and then lose it completely. Sure, you could go back and rewrite, but you know that the magical sparks that rang through those pages will never return as they were. Magic is hard enough to get right the first time, and you can’t expect it to dance around in duplicate like it was born in a photocopier.
Once upon a time I had written 90 pages of a novel. It was going to be about my year as an au pair, but also about the way we weave fairy tales into the fabric of our lives and the way those projections then collide with reality. Maybe I’ll still write it someday. But since my hard drive and my back-up hard drive died within weeks of each other, erasing both the original and the back-up, I just haven’t been able to put my hand to it again. You understand. It’s been almost six years since, but I have only just started being able to think about rewriting without wanting to cry/throw up/throw my computer right out the window.
Losing your writing is worse than writer’s block by far. Writer’s block is like staring at an empty room. It’s not interesting, it’s not, well, anything really. Boring, frustrating maybe, but just empty. Losing your work is like staring at an empty room and knowing that everything you’ve ever loved was once in it and has been ravaged by bandits or fire or both. It’s not just an empty room, it’s a room that has been emptied, that once held treasures you will never be able to replace.
In light of losing a 90-page work in progress, it really wasn’t all that bad when the internet ate the blog post I wrote about our trip to Dresden to play the Drüben auf den Hugel festival. I didn’t cry or tear at my hair or wring my hands. But I won’t be writing it again any time soon. I can take a hint.