Can that art which has been lost ever be found?


A good writer friend of mine recently experienced the unthinkable: a complete hard drive failure resulting in the loss of months of written work.  As he and I discussed a section of reconstructed text last night, he explained that the artists he’d told of his misfortune responded with shock and dismay, while the tech friends he’d told simply admonished, “You should always back up your computer!”

Well, in case you haven’t already proven this axiom on your own, ‘hard drives ALWAYS crash when the data isn’t backed up.’  (Besides that, “I told you so’s” aren’t going to help an artist in this situation.)

I’m guessing that we’ve all found ourselves the victims of lost work at some point in our careers.  When have you found yourself scratching your head over a draft or a sketch wishing you had just stayed up a couple more hours to finish your thoughts?  When have you written something down only to find that it stayed in your pockets with the cigarette butts and used kleenex when you put the whole mess in the washer?  When have you put weeks of sleepless nights into a project only to dump your coffee on the final draft?

We all experience creative losses at some point.  The question is, how do we reconstruct and move on when a precious piece of our creations goes missing?

Years ago when I got serious about my writing, I began to subscribe to the philosophy of creative recycling.  This is a completely fabricated philosophy which assumes that anything I’ve created and lost will somehow be recycled and reemerge in a new form in some other creative endeavor.

No, I have no proof for this theory.  However, after having found myself in my friend’s shoes on more than one occasion, I’ve had to let go of the notion that anything I could create exists in any sort of permanent, perfect form.  (Conservation of information, impermanence, and all that jazz…)

How do you recover when you lose a piece of your work?  Do you find that it’s never quite as excellent as you remember, or do you find that being forced to start from scratch improves your creation?

How do you work to prevent massive data loss?  Notes?  Data backups?  Photographic memory?

Yes, yes… scurry off now to backup your c:\ drive!  We’ll wait.


8 Responses to Can that art which has been lost ever be found?

  1. sunny says:

    Had this happen recently….however, I’m happy to say that what I’ve had to reconstruct from memory seems better. I have a sticker on my laptop now: Thou shall back up! I think backing up is a better option than losing that one perfect phrase that no longer lives in my memory…

  2. JLB says:

    Sunny, welcome! It’s so hard to learn that one the hard way, isn’t it? The sticker on the laptop idea is a good one – I may have to do the same. My monitor has a fortune from a fortune cookie: “You will get more accomplished if you begin now.

  3. jpa says:

    hey jlb,
    love the site always entertaining. This will be the last change..

  4. JLB says:

    JPA, glad to see you’re back online with your work. Thanks for swinging by. 😉

  5. Ester says:

    I find sometimes that big losses like that are really beneficial, because it was my attachment to the art that kept me from advancing forward with it, and being forced to start all over again refreshed my mind to new possibilities. Of course, I first have to get over the huge ego trip of loss in the first place, but once I remember that I can never really “own” or “have” anything anyway, it’s much easier to start again, with feeling!

  6. Anita Marie says:

    Hi Jade-
    I store my work in different places- wordpress, blogger even in my draft files at yahoo.
    And as big of a pain as it is…I always print out hard copies.

    It’s funny because in doing this I’ve gone back over things I’ve edited out and decided to put them back in again.

    PLUS I always keep outlines in LONG HAND. They’re just key notes, quotes, character names plot progression- nothing that resembles a story, but I could ( and have ) re-created chapters and short stories from notes before.

    Just some ideas
    Anita Marie

  7. Eric says:

    I’m putting my pics on DVD, right now.

  8. JLB says:

    Ester, I have DEFINITELY experienced that sort of blockage removal when I’ve lost some segment of my work with no hope of recovery. It can be a great way to force me to reassess the project and speak clear and true to the main point I’m trying to make.

    Anita Marie, you know, I’ve really come to appreciate a lot of unexpected benefits of blogging. Particularly, the whole “log” or “journal” aspect, while obvious, wasn’t really the original main focus for me when I got started. Now, looking back, I can see all kinds of patterns, recorded events, thoughts, and ideas–even growth–recorded in my blog.

    Writing out long hand is something I’m trying to re-embrace. I really let it go in recent years, and I’ve found that getting back into the exercise reawakens all kinds of creative processes.

    (As for your notes, you must be a little like me. Sometimes I just need one or two words on a note to remember the entire, complete story/project idea.)

    Eric, ugh. Archiving is a serious consideration for me right now! Photography in particular has proven incredibly cumbersome to sustain in the archives.

    I also need to work on creating a more automated blog archiving system for myself. What it probably comes down to is jumping out of free-hosted services and hosting my own blogs. Of course, that might be a few years out depending on the fundage situation. 😉

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