Setbacks: The Internet Ate My Homework

February 5, 2015

My post for today was an easy one right up until the moment it wasn’t. I keep a backlog of post drafts in various states of development. Some are no more than a title and maybe a single sentence describing what the gist of the idea would be. Others are very nearly complete, though I often find that the reason they are nearly complete but remain unpublished is that I’m not exactly wowed by what I wrote.

Today was almost an exception. I found an old post draft that was probably about 50% complete from several months ago where I discovered that I not only liked what I had written for the most part, but the topic (a discussion on dealing with one’s inner editor) seemed like a nice direction following my two ideas posts in the last week. Based on the date associated with when I first started writing it, I think the main reason I didn’t bring it to completion is that all my activity here came to a grinding halt due to my own anxieties and planning for National Novel Writing Month.

Astute readers will no doubt have noticed that I have made a couple of references to how today was almost easy, which surely suggests that in the end it was not. It’s probably also pretty obvious that what I’m sharing now is not the draft I discovered. True on both accounts.

So what made today go from piece o’ cake to piece o’ crap?

 Save Early, Save Often and Make Sure It Works

It’s all in the title. The internet ate my homework. I’m still not sure precisely what happened, but it’s clear there was some flaw in the save process. I draft my blog posts directly in WordPress. I save pretty regularly and the site as its own built in save function. I sometimes add pictures or other visuals in the process of drafting, and I often use the ‘preview’ function to see how they’ll look in the final product. This helps with placement, size, etc.

When I went to preview the post I was working on, I thought I saved beforehand. I say “thought” only to acknowledge that maybe I just completely screwed up. There was no obvious error message when I saved, so I’m not sure what I could have done differently in the context of my current workflow. I may, however, consider drafting posts elsewhere, perhaps with a dedicating writing tool rather than a browser window.

Losing the work just before I went to preview was one thing, but it got much worse. When I returned to the text editor, at least a couple of hours worth of work was gone. On top of that, none of the previous versions from today were saved except an early one that came right when I started working. It was incredibly frustrating. So much so that I just got up and walked away from my computer. It was either that or chuck it like a discus in anger. That would have been an expensive reaction.

I had a similar thing happen a few weeks ago only it was with my novel draft. I’ve endeavored to build an incredibly redundant system with my long form writing, and I think I’ve largely succeeded. It is not, however, full proof. I very nearly managed to lose a whole night’s worth of writing through a series of deft user errors (mine, duh). What I thought I lost included a scene which might be the piece of writing in the book I’m proudest of so far. This WordPress thing is a bit different, but the feeling was very similar.That night I did lose about half a scene’s worth of work, but fortunately the entirety of the scene about which I was most excited was preserved. I also had my trusty outline for helping me to recreate the stuff I did lose.*

The Moral of This Story

Setbacks happen. All sorts of ’em. These happen to be file saving issues, but there’s any number of others that we’ll encounter on our way to trying to accomplish something. I don’t have much profound to add, not right now at least. I’m still a little too close to this current one. I will say this. It’s obvious and trite, but the important thing to setbacks is how we respond. Today, frankly, kinda sucked because of the saving issue, but in the scheme of things I know how minor this is overall.

More importantly, look at this! Now I have an entirely different post. It may not be what I wanted to write about. It may not be as good as the other subject would have been. That doesn’t matter as much as the fact that I still did it. Sometimes the only thing that really counts is whether we keep going.

Just one foot in front of the other. Keep going. You’ll get there.

*I was much more devastated about what I thought I lost that night than today’s blog post. For one, it was a lot more work. I thought I had lost an entire day at one point. Two, I’m confident I can recreate the salient points of today’s blog post whereas with the novel there were parts of it where I simply felt great about how I’d written the scene. I knew I could recreate the events, but I wasn’t sure I could recreate the “magic,” so to speak. Indeed, the rewritten portion just doesn’t feel as great as the original did, even as it has the exact same events unfolding.


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