Sunday, March 10, 2013

Making Peace with Lost Creations

An all too familiar ill befell me today-- a cruel twist of fate that has plagued me frequently in the past, and shall surely continue to antagonize me in the days to come. My lament is one that is echoed throughout human existence-- a spurned yet inevitable part of any artist's life.

The loss of one's work.

Pardon the sudden transition in font, boldness, italics and size, but the severity of the predicament demands that I pull out all the stops. Today, like many other days, luck--or lack of it--hath beckoned back my woes. Microsoft Word 2013 is still quite in BETA, so I cope with bugs abound... and the mal-est of malfunctions reared its ugly head... save corruption. A computer crash has lost me a substantial amount of work-- two whole days worth, to be exact. For non-writers perhaps that may not seem like much, but due to the fleeting nature of my brain's creative bursts that flare spontaneously as I write, this means I lost ideas, descriptions and dialogues that I will never again be able to retrieve.

Non-writing folk will frustratingly tell me and the countless others who've shared my misery:

"You did it once, you can do it again."

I can do it again, yes, but never ever in the same way and therein lies the tragedy. Forever lost... the original work shall never see the eyes of a reader. In all works of art, the creator knows that producing the same outcome twice is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.

Why? Because there is a certain relationship between an artist and its medium that cannot be feigned. Writing something you've already written but lost--not to be confused with a rewrite-- is like trying to pick out someone the same exact birthday card two years in a row:  It feels forced, it's hard to do, and even if you get it right it's not nearly as effective as the first time. It's the sad truth. The unprovoked and unexpected snippets of inspiration that arise amiss earnest writing sessions are irreplaceable  You cannot control the weather, nor can you predict--or truly understand--a brainstorm. The tempest that is creative energy is like a fossil fuel-- once you mine it, it's gone. Kaput. Picture the tragedy that is an oil spill... the tremendous loss of life and wealth. My creations are alive in my mind, and when events of their lives disappear it is as tragic as an Alzheimer's patient's loss of memories. Never again will I see those precious moments.

And yet, I must carry on.

We all must. It is our duty to accept the loss of the battle, retreat, rebuild and regroup. The war I wage on success continues-- if I allow one casualty to cripple me I will never finish my campaign for glory. I will never succeed. I will die an unknown warrior of art with no grave to leave behind my legacy of style. Fortunately for me, my almost unhealthy level of passion has equip me with a heavy-metal mental arsenal able to combat and conquer this rueful enemy. But writers, you too have this. You just need to tap into it.

I am no blues musician-
This is not about pitying a loss of work.

I am no paleontologist-
This is not about recovering a loss of work.

I am no psychotherapist-
This is not about accepting a loss of work.

I am an artist, a creator and a writer foremost.
This is about writing.

A writer must not believe in the fallacy of singular outcomes to ones writing. Our craft is not mathematics; there is never one right answer. In the creation of a literary work, it's just not possible to achieve the same results even with the same methods.(which is also the reason that most writing advice given from a personal perspective fails) The beauty of writing IS this its lack of linearity and the wonders conjured up by its magnificent nature of uncertainty. By trying to replicate your past, you've essentially plagiarized yourself. We are creators. We must play to our [obvious] strength: creating. 

Thank fate for the chance to attack your story at a new angle. Don't fight the same battle. Don't attempt to reenact a rerun. Write anew. Let go of your attachment to a love that can never be-- a thing that no longer exists. Your work has been sucked into a black hole. Instead of killing yourself trying to retrieve it, discover a new planet. Go on a new adventure. Find a new treasure. A loss is just more room for a gain. Creativity is a well that springs eternal. Just as you do not pollute it with outside influences, don't dwell on the water that every so often spills out. Drink more. Drink in the opportunity to rebuild into something better and don't be afraid to allow traces of the old into the new. Memorials to our friends lost in the war for success are vital, and they remind us of the vastness that is our creativity.

So it's not an oil-spill after all... and the non-writer turn out to be quite enlightened on the matter of lost work, even if they don't realize it. Perspective is oft lost when we commit to our works, and it is easy to allow a loss of one's creation to cloud us... but don't.  Make peace with your lost creations, and after that?

Make more.

- B