The moment every writer dreads: turning on the computer to your most current project, only to find it missing, gone, vanished into the ether. I’m sure every response is the same. Disbelief, dismay, fear, worry, anger. In my case, it was the deadline day for Blue Moon Vegan. It was all but done—maybe a bit of editing here and again. Resources to format. A lick here, a bit of spit and polish there.
Instead, a void.
Who do you call?
Well, first I called Phil, because he will listen to me cry and not judge. Then he will tell me—as he did that day—that it will be all right. Computers are buckets, not sieves. “It will show up,” he kept saying. And I know he believed it. He always believes when I can’t.
Then there was the call to Norton, because, brilliant me, I bought the hype about The Cloud and agreed to a trial. Alas, after a morning on chat with a tech, there was no conclusion but that for some crazy-cyborg reason, that little notice that pops up on my screen telling me how efficiently my files are being backed up was lying. No sign of my Blue Moon Vegan file since July 7. Eight days prior. And I had done most of the work on the final draft in that week. Working 10-12 hours a day, the way writers do.
My first experience writing to a deadline. And failure.
Of course I blamed myself. I usually back up on a thumb drive. I usually email late drafts to myself at 2 accounts. I usually print off late drafts. I usually email to at least one other person. Shouldawouldacoulda.
Some years ago, I was a bit shocked when, at an antiques shop near where I live, I found something that had belonged to me a long time ago. It was a pair of embroidered Holly Hobbies I had done in my late teens. I used to have a passion for creating with needle and thread, and these were one of my very first pieces and the only thing I had ever made and kept for myself. All the others—some very complicated thread paintings—I had given as gifts. The frame had been changed, the threadwork in topnotch condition because it had obviously been behind glass all those years, but the work was clearly mine. I had left a half-inch row of stitches blank and had never gone back and filled them in. For years I silently chastised myself every time I looked at those Holly Hobbies. Why couldn’t I make myself thread the needle and finish them?
The antique store where I found them was 20 years and a thousand miles from where I abandoned them in a storage unit. Of course I purchased them, but I was so spooked that I put them in my trunk and left them there for a good six months. When I finally told my father about it, he said, “You marked them so you could recognize them.” It was a moment of deep knowing. I understand now that that is exactly what I did, but it still puzzles me how such foreknowledge is possible.
Around that same time I read about superstitions around artisan work, and how there is always supposed to be a tiny flaw—a flaw to drive off bad spirits and to help the piece on its journey. Of course you know, once the final draft of Blue moon Vegan was re-imagined, reconfigured, and I was telling everyone how glad I was that the whole thing happened, because the discomfort created by that tough situation caused me to dig much deeper into trying to understand why I had given in to writing a cookbook, when I had sworn, sworn, sworn, that I would never, and that reflection brought me around to understanding that it was her, the teenager who collected recipes, who loved imagining herself in a gourmet kitchen, who thrilled over the very rare trips to fancy restaurants and gourmet food, who wanted me to write that book. And that the journey just wouldn’t have been whole without its tiny flaw.
Sitting here writing this tonight, a long way from home, another struggle, another journey, and another story for a different day, after a week of one oddball miracle after another, I am reminded just how lucky we are that things often do not turn out the way we first imagine, but how often it’s the things we actually aren’t capable of imagining that stack up to make us whole people. What we are not taught enough in our culture is to trust our instincts, our urges to hold back or move sideways or to shake our heads no when the whole world says yes. Despite what I’ve told everybody over these past few weeks, I did not have one impulse to back up my work for Blue Moon Vegan. I trusted The Cloud, and that technology failed me. And I’m so very glad it did.