I lost twenty-five thousand words. They disappeared and are nowhere to be found. It is a sad thing to lose that many words, to have them vanish into thin air like a cheap magician’s trick. I don’t know where they went. I don’t think anyone took them, no one stole them from me, but they are gone, and I miss them.
They represent hours spent at the keyboard- hours of work – gone as though they never happened. I was writing my newest novel, a thriller revolving around an author who goes missing. Ironically, in the story words are stolen, taken from their rightful author.
I don’t know what happened to my missing words. I had forty-thousand words written, halfway to the novel’s end, but I then got distracted with a finished manuscript, a first draft that needed developmental editing, and so I abandoned the new one, just for a time, to focus on the other, kind of like paying attention to the child getting ready for college and leaving the middle school kid to fend for herself. When I went to open up the new manuscript, with the other one taken care of (the college kid settled in her dorm room, and her classes signed up for), the new manuscript was gone.
I looked everywhere, not finding it using Finder. I finally looked in the trash and found it there, wondering at myself, and how I possibly could have relegated it to the trash. When I dragged it out and opened it I was dismayed to see there were only fifteen thousand words. It must have been an older version that for whatever reason, I’d thrown away. So the newer version, the one with forty thousand words, had to be somewhere- I just needed to find it.
It was gone. I have no idea what happened to it. For a brief moment, I wondered if perhaps I hadn’t actually written the twenty-five thousand words if somehow my mind was playing a cruel trick on me. But I have my notes. I have the evidence of the lost words.
I am hesitant to begin again, to try and reconstruct the words I’ve lost. I’m afraid they won’t come to me again, or I won’t like them as much as I liked the ones that went missing. It is a strange thing to lose words, to lose the rhythm and pace, the flow, structure, to lose the sentences and paragraphs, the pages that comprise a story. I’m afraid that my new words won’t equal the ones I lost. Because they are gone, I now think of them as irreplaceable, as though by being gone my mind has elevated them to a greatness that, very possibly, they didn’t deserve.
So often don’t we, when losing something or someone, think they can’t be replaced? Don’t we fear the unknown, the idea of finding something new? Think how many times a favorite restaurant has gone out of business and before even trying the new one we think it can’t be as good. How many times have we lost a favorite something and thought we will never find one as worthy again? How many boyfriends/girlfriends do we lose and think we will never find a love as great? How many losses do we suffer and think to ourselves that what comes next can’t possibly be as good?
But then, how many times do we lose something only to have it replaced by something so much better? How many times do we have to give something up and find that what comes next is what we were looking for in the first place, but we just didn’t know it? How many times does loss mean finding something more, something superior, something greater, and we thank our lucky stars for the loss that brings us to the something superior, the something greater?
I think perhaps my new words will be better, that losing the old ones was simply a way to find words I will like even more. Perhaps we should all keep in mind loss can sometimes lead to gain.