Monday, May 30, 2005

Wallowing in self-pity
Saturday, I wrote a great post. I worked on it off and on all afternoon. It had a little of everything. It had wit and compassion. It had contemporary significance and historical perspective. It tied the American experience into the international scene. It and multiple strands of meaning and narrative that that balanced out in the end to form a satisfying tapestry. It had personal revelations and it was perfectly suited to send to a carnival. It had pathos, bathos, portos and d'artangan. It had illustrations. When the text was done, I still needed to prepare those illustrations, but it was time to fix dinner, so I closed the file without saving it and turned off the computer.

Sunday morning, I got up and worked on the illustrations. When I had them all scanned and sized and colored just so I opened the text file to put it all together and found... three short paragraphs where there should have been about 1500 words. I tried all of the file recovery tricks I know, but sadly, those tricks only work for deleted files and computer crashes. None of the tricks in my repertoire work for misplacing my brain and deliberately closing a Notepad file without saving my work.

I loudly informed the computer that yellow legal pads never did this to me, but deep in my heart I knew it wasn't the computer's fault. I did it to myself and there was no way to escape the responsibility for my dumb actions. It was gone, gone, gone and there was nothing I could do about it. I went over to where my little cat, Mehitabel, was sleeping, hoping she would have some words of wisdom and comfort to soothe my fevered mind. I bent over and tore the seat out of my pants. I spent the rest of the day in an increasingly dark and nasty funk.

It wasn't that the post had been that great. It had been good, very good even, but it wasn't the best post ever. The problem was that I haven't been writing very good posts lately. Regular readers will attest that I've been in an increasingly deep writer's slump for about two months. My posting has become infrequent and shallow. There are a variety of personal and professional reasons for this slump, the most significant being the return of my mother's cancer. Creative concentration just hasn't been my strong suit lately.

Into this came a three-day weekend with no major crises or duties to fill it. That meant I had two days to take care of normal weekend business and one whole, free day just to spend on writing. I did a little yard work, to get a head start on the responsibilities, and turned to the computer. And it worked. Words flowed. Ideas came. It was exactly the kind of writing I had been trying to do, but had been unable to do since about February. Sigh. It wasn't the loss of the piece itself that caused such a crisis for me, it was the loss of the frame of mind that the piece represented.

Writers will probably understand the frustration I'm describing, but let me try a metaphor for the non-writers. It's like I baked this really great cake, with soft green icing, from a very complicated and borrowed recipe. Then some idiot leaves the cake outside and it rains and the cake is destroyed. I invested so much of my being into that cake that I don't think that I can take it, 'cause it took so long to bake it, and I'll never have that recipe again. Or something like that.

Anyway, I feel better having vented about it. I hope your weekend is going better. I'm going to fix something yummy and comforting for dinner and buy a new pair of pants.

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