November 22, 2010

NaNoWriMo - Day 22 - All is lost (?)

There's hardly a writer, or any other user of a word processor, this has not happened to. You spend several hours writing something and then, due to some technical malfunction or human error, it's all gone. You try to restore it with every possible means at your disposal - technological, mental, spiritual, necromantic - but it is hopeless, your great burst of writing, its value heightened by its very loss, is gone forever.
This is exactly what happened to me last night - three hours of vigorous writing wiped out by a single moment of distraction. Then I naturally attempted to create exactly what I have written, with only partial success - the scenes are all there, but certain words and images still elude me. And of course, as I kept telling myself, if I was writing longhand or using a typewriter this could not have happened.
Miguel de Unamuno at his desk
This whole ordeal naturally led me to think of my numerous literary predecessors. In a certain way, I was my own person from Porlock, irretrievably disrupting the flow of words, just as that unnamed character had disrupted Coleridge's composition of Kubla Khan. A closer and more prosaic story involves the fate of the first volume of Thomas Carlyle's The French Revolution, which was accidentally burned by John Stuart Mill's maid, forcing Carlyle to rewrite the whole thing from scratch.
Finally, of course, the attempt to rewrite the exact same words another has written before brings to mind the Borges story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote (you may argue with me whether or not the person who wrote the first version of those lost thousand words is the same person as the one who wrote the second version; you will certainly grant me that the latter is somewhat more bitter, if none wiser).

So naturally yesterday's NaNoWriMo session did not amount to as much as it could have, and then today I was called back to a big translation project which will probably keep me very busy for the next few days or weeks, so it seems I won't reach the 50,000 word goal but, as I mentioned in my previous posts, I think this undertaking has already done a lot for this particular project and for my writing in general.

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