Twice I can recall times where writing just broke my heart. The first time was I was still a teenager and had been working on a story called Road Kill for what must have been weeks. It was the longest piece I had written I was really proud of it. I had a notebook I had the story and some other random stuff in and, for some reason, I placed the notebook on top of my mom’s car and forgot it. Naturally she went somewhere that day and POOF no more story. I was crushed. I was so proud of that story and it was just, gone and lost. The loss of it still bothers me because it was my fault. The good thing is that the story was strong enough that nearly twenty years later it is still in my mind and waiting to be re-written. Just a matter of time.
The second time I had my heart broken by writing was a bit worse. A bit scarier for a writer. A few years ago I had been having trouble with the computer I had at the time and it was just acting up and being finicky, as computers are wont to be. A friend of mine, a woman I had dated a few years earlier, told me she could fix the computer without a problem. She’d back up everything and re-install Windows and do it all up. Not a problem. Awesome. So she came over with a friend and started working on the computer. It was a long job so her friend and I hung out and talked and watched as the computer was worked on. Time passed and I was sitting in my living room with the friend of a friend and we were talking and all of a sudden my friend starts freaking out and crying and I am like, uh-oh. We rush into the bedroom, where my computer was, and my friend is bawling her eyes out. She screwed up something. She had forgotten to burn discs of all my documents, including personal letters, and all stories, and I had lost all photos and all music. Oh crap.
I had lost a LOT. In terms of music and photos, and personal letters, I lost a LOT. As for the stories, I was lucky in that I had a lot of stuff saved to discs and stuff but really, I lost a lot. Dozens of stories were lost for the ages. Gone and, now, forgotten.
I was crushed, I was heartbroken, but it was the first time I had really shown the stuff of adulthood because I let it go. My friend didn’t mean to do it, felt awful about it, and that was all there was too it. I lost the stories. Hell, I lose a lot of stories from sheer forgetfulness. Maybe the stories were great, maybe not, but there were more in the well, all I had to do was drop the bucket and haul them up.
Going through what I have with stories, I always wonder what other stories have been lost, to me and to anyone else. What poems. What art is lost to the ages for whatever reason. The ghosts of the ones that got away are thick with the arts. Haunting us with what may have been and never shall be now.
And you have to honor the passing and the dead, the lost and the never found. You have to honor them because for a moment they were all you thought of and could imagine. For a moment they were your future. But futures change and we must change with them. We have no choice. Some dead will never be buried, but that doesn’t mean we forget them. With luck, with work, we honor their memory and move forward, taking what we learned from and through them and hoping we can do their likeness well.
I have lost a lot of stories, but in their losses, perhaps the lessons learned were more important than the stories themselves.