Inspiration is sometimes hard to come by and sometimes overflowing. I think I figured this out when I was really young but I didn’t know how to articulate it until I was older. Until I was, ostensibly, “an adult,” and could point to myself in times of stagnancy and understand that it’s okay to not be producing all the time. It’s okay to take a day and not write. It’s crazy, but I felt this when I was thirteen. I felt this when I was ten. I thought I had to make something everyday. I felt worthless when I didn’t.
A friend of mine is having computer troubles. She has nothing backed up and is afraid she’ll lose all her information. She most likely won’t, the computer repair place said, but she’s still worried.
I told her a story, something that happened to me when I was fourteen. My father watched an episode of Sex and the City in which Carrie’s computer crashed and someone (maybe Big? maybe herself? I’ve never really watched the show) buys her a zip drive. This was after floppy disks but before external hard drives. My father, knowing how many files I had on our family computer, went out the next day and bought me the same zip drive. It was blue. The disks were thick and heavy, solid. They would hold dozens of files.
I put them in my room. The next day, I went to use the computer. I wrote. The day after that, I wrote. The day after that, I went and found that every single one of my files had been deleted. Gone. Vanished. Poof. I found my mother. I asked her if she knew what happened. She said (and I quote) Oh my god. She had, for some inexplicable reason, assumed I’d copied all my files over. She went and deleted everything of mine off the computer. I was fourteen. Maybe thirteen, maybe fifteen. I’d been writing regularly since I was nine. I lost everything—countless short stories, the bulk of a novel called Jumper, journal entries and angst-ridden poems.
I didn’t want to write after that. I didn’t understand the point. I had nothing to show for myself. The idea of starting over was way too daunting for my young brain to overcome. The inspiration, as it was, had gone.
This still happens. If I miss a day writing, if I spend some hours doing other things, it’s almost impossible to wake up the next day and sit down at my computer and finish a paragraph I’d started two days before. The greater the time between sessions, the harder it is to convince myself: This is writing time. You’re going to write now. Write something good.
It still bothers me that all those years of young writing are gone. I’ll never get them back. That first novel might have made me famous (except—probably not. It was heavily X-Files inspired, about a spirit who could jump from body to body and possess its host. This has been done before).
I’m continually reminded how hard it is to write, and especially how hard it is to write when you’ve skipped a day, or lost a bunch of work, or managed to misplace your stockpile of inspiration. But still I do it, week after week. It’s the only thing I really, really know how to do. If I’m not feeling it, I write anyway. Sometimes I write really shitty things. But I always back up my work now, shitty or not, inspired or not.