Losing a part of myself

The past few days I dug out my folders with this work in progress I started a few years ago. It has become a conglomeration of three short stories I wrote for my university’s fiction workshops – I see elements (characters, plots, events) that fit into one novel.

In trying a new approach of building visual outlines on pads of papers (which has worked well and broken my usual round of typing a few pages then hitting a wall, unable to see how one section fits into the larger picture) I arrived at a place where I could go into the saved documents and start laying the foundation. Except, I cannot find the (digital) folders of my past work.

I check my flash drives, but they are not there. I check my external hard drives – to no avail. Panic starts to set in. I dig out my old hard drive to my old computer, but sure enough the documents folder is empty, having been at some point transferred.

(As a side note, I am a hardware geek. I build my own PCs, and I rotate new hardware in on a regular basis, but I always take the opportunity to organize files and folders before backing up).

I have scanned every drive I own and all of my work from 2003-2010 is just gone. Vapor. I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it, probably in a self-denying sense because to admit what appears obvious is heart-wrenching. All of my university papers, from first draft to final, gone. The brick and mortar of this novel that has grown and troubled me for years: somewhere in the ether.

This situation pains me for a few reasons. In one way, I have just lost my body of work, my ‘portfolio’, if you will. I feel I’ve been cut off at the knees for future endeavors or if I apply for a position or grant and I have nothing to point to as a mark of my skill.

That is to say nothing of the sadness I feel because, on some level, I am a hoarder, and having lost seven years of files is what I imagine it must be like when the city issues an ultimatum to a real life hoarder to empty out his house, except for the fact rather than having acquired the documents from other sources they are all pieces of me: my thought processes and analysis; my time.

Having lost all these files is a setback to my plan of structuring the novel and then writing the rest and (finally) completing a first draft. At the same time, however, it forces me to use the outlines I’ve been working on and start from scratch, with all of the planning in mind. I suppose it’s a bit of a blessing, though at the moment it feels strictly like a curse.

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