In 2010, I was excited to be well on the way to complete my first novel. I know... what!? It's true, though. I was about 500 typed pages into a fictional story based on true-life experience and it was going to be one of the best things I've ever done. If only I had known the dangers of technology at that point...
I wasn't taking photos professionally yet at this point, only for my own albums of memories, so my main focus was getting this book done and every waking moment I had that I wasn't 'momming', I was writing. Sure, those moments were few and far between at that point of my life, but it was my dream and dammit, I was going to see it to fruition. Then, one fine Friday morning, when the kids were all at school , I sat down luxuriously with my Americano in one hand and my laptop in the other and got to work. I flipped my laptop open, fired up the hard drive and.... yeah, that's the end of the story. One white screen, no annoying little messages from Microsoft, no desktop photos or folders. Just the stark white screen and the feeling of horror coming up into my throat in the form of some sort of acid, I'm sure.
"Okay...breathe..." I mumbled in between my ears as I dialed my friend Jen in Wisconsin and let her know the issues I was experiencing.
"I mean, it's backed up on an external, right?..... Jess? Jess, are you still there?" What. in the actual .HELL. I began to feel my cheeks become wet with the warm salty tears I'm not sure if I even knew were falling. FUCK.
"Ok, thanks, hon... I'm gonna run up to Best Buy and see if they can help me." Those were the words that came forward from between my lips when the words in my head screamed "You are such a dumbass, Jessica. Why? Why wouldn't you back, back, back it up?" (thanks Lil' Jon, lol) The VERY sympathetic, adorable nerd from the Geek Squad reassured me they'd do what they could. Not even two days later, it was confirmed. Queue Taylor Swift over here... "I've got a blank space baby, and I'll write your name." It was GONE. And it was 100% my own damn fault.
Eager to get started ALL over again, I bought another laptop and a shiny new external hard drive. I sat down for days, got maybe 25-30 pages in, and finally realized that it was over. The End. I couldn't rewrite the 6 months I had started and I wrestled with feelings of failure, incompetence, doubt... even anger, maybe. Mostly just sadness. As extreme as it sounds, it felt as if a part of me died that day. Why I couldn't keep going though, that actually came to me later, and I'm really glad it did.
New beginnings, but not really...
As the weeks went on, I tried writing new material. Instead of trying to so desperately recreate what I could no longer salvage, I pointed myself in a few new directions. I had some good short stories... but none of them were GREAT. The measuring stick was the novel I lost, and nothing was ever going to compare to it. I turned to poetry and prose for immediate gratification, and though I never shared much, it worked for a while. Nothing was ever going to compare to the first run, though, and the more and more I thought about it, the less and less I wrote.
Oh, hi, Universe...
Soon my photography business would take off. I say it right here on the website... I'm a storyteller. Perhaps this new business/passion of mine was enough to take over for the written word? I mean, after all, I told stories and people actually said I was good at it. Great, even.
But they weren't my own.
I went back to 'the book', and thought I'd give it one more try. Over the course of the next few months, my life changed pretty drastically. While the details don't need to be included, let's just say some was good, some was bad, and some was ugly. But all of it became the catalyst for a new way of thinking. I realized something- thanks be to God and the Universe and a million other little signs along the way, I realized that staring at that same blank page was the same thing I was doing with my life. I realized, or maybe decided, that the book I was trying to write was a recreation of a life that was no longer mine. It was a memoir of times, and even moreso people, that no longer had a purpose in my life. It was a band-aid I had repeatedly ripped open to be in my feelings without actually moving on from the things that were hurting me. From the people who hurt me. From a life that no longer served me....that no longer moved me. It was no longer creative. It was a journal of past offenses and experiences and while I was so sad that I lost it all, it was a Universal re-boot of mind, body, and soul. Yeah, you can't argue with that.
Suddenly, the blank white screen was a gift, and no longer a curse. How could I be sad about that? There were a million new things I could write about, endless new experiences that were waiting for me, whether it was true life or simply something I had in my brain that I could put down somewhere- on paper or on my laptop- into words.
Fast forward, Rewind...
It's 2020, yo. And a LOT of people hate 2020. For good reason, yes. However, I kinda don't. Sure, there are a lot of truths behind the Jumanji level jokes and I'm not really happy to say "been there, done that" to the "Novel" (no pun intended...ok, totally intended) Coronavirus, for one. Second, you probably won't ever see me write the word "unprecedented" in any of my work ever again because I've come to loathe that word. Still... 2020 isn't all bad.
2020 has definitely been a crazy year. However, it's also been an amazing year for re-prioritizing a lot in my life. I've let go of a lot of 'to do's' because they stopped when the world stopped in March, and since then, I've been able to find balance for probably the first time ever. I'm shooting, working, taking better care of myself and my kids, loving every new path or curve life wants to throw at me... and well... I'm writing again. There is no more measuring stick. If I want to write something short, I write it. If I want to write something long, I start it. If I change my mind, I start again or I put page 1 on the backburner and fast forward to page 101 because that's where my mind is at for the moment. But I'm doing it. And when I go back and rewind the experiences I write about, it doesn't have to be perfect, but it's journaled. It's there. Whether it's fact, fiction, or anything in between, it's being documented, logged, saved, and for Pete's sake, BACKED UP.
Over the last few months, especially, I feel as if I've found a few new reasons to write, and a few new ideas to entertain for the future. I'm excited about it- so much so that I decided to share my sad little story in the hopes that maybe it might motivate someone else the way it's motivated me. Wait, what?
Moral of the story?
It's more than writing, you guys. Whether it's the first page, the first photo, the first step, the first move... we can't hang onto the past or the way things might even be now to move forward. It's a head thing. It's a heart thing, but it's in all of us to use that blank space that we are blessed with and write the first page. And sometimes, it can be painful to start. If something as simple as staring at a blank screen and crying over what was lost can affect my writing the way it did, I'm sure there are far more painful steps to be taken for some. I would love to talk about it if anyone out there needs the encouragement, because it's important we don't stay stuck. We have to keep going... we have to keep writing our own stories.