5 Ways of Coping with Writing Disaster

Isn’t it funny how your knees buckle in the face of disaster? How the world suddenly crumbles around you, leaving only the sudden, desperate focus on the one thing that went wrong?

Suddenly all joy seems to have evaporated from your life and the only thing left is the inevitable, negative self-talk that we writers know all too well.

Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

I am an expert when it comes to putting myself down. It is a skill which I have been perfecting since 1990…the year of my earliest childhood memory.

This all seems melodramatic, no doubt, but wait until I reveal the reason behind this post and you may find yourself empathising with my mood on this very dark day.

It is a morning like any other. I wake up early to get some editing done before the world wakes up and demands that I turn up to work and act professional.

I make coffee, wander into the living room and grab my laptop…it won’t switch on.

Fair enough. Battery empty. Find charger.

I plug my charger into the wall socket. I press the ‘on’ button. NOTHING. Only a weak, terrifying, brief flashing of light. The screen remains black.

The familiar technological humming noise I wait for doesn’t come.

Oh God. No. Please. Oh God.

My first reaction is of course annoyance. My laptop is only 2 years old. Then I tell myself it’s ok. I am a responsible author.

I keep backups. I have a care plan. I can just take my laptop to the shop and they will fix it and loan me a replacement whilst I wait for the repair.

Then the true disaster hits me: one file hasn’t made it into cloud storage yet. This file is a 15,000 word book segment – Episode 2 of my YA fantasy serial ‘Songs of Lea’.

My reasons for not backing this up? Not good enough to stop the mental hate mail I am currently sending myself.

Should have bought a Mac!!!!!

So here I am, writing depressing blog posts at 08:09 BST instead of gleefully writing on Episode 3 in the safe knowledge that Episode 2 is available to my loyal wattpad readers.

I feel like a total arsehole. My story sounds like an excuse.

Dear wattpadders, unfortunately the chapter I promised you has conveniently been eaten by my shitty laptop. Apologies. I will upload it once I get my laptop fixed…if I get it fixed.

And the negative self-talk goes into a second round: what if I lose Episode 2?

Dammit, dammit! Rookie mistake!!! Always, always, always backup your stuff!! Always, always, always double check that everything synced.

Ok, so the worst happened. Not much I can do now. Let’s try and cope, shall we?

Trying to be as positive as I can to overpower the negativity, I have come up with the following 5 coping mechanisms that I am employing to save my sanity…and possibly my indie writing career.

1. Drink coffee, be happy

I am sure that I speak for most indie authors, when I say that coffee is my creative life blood. These days, apart from writing on the train to and from my full-time office job, I usually also pack a 7 hour writeathon into my week by getting my butt in the chair every Saturday (sometimes Sunday). Without coffee none of this would be possible. Hands up if you agree.

2. Live in the ‘NOW’

Coulda woulda shoulda…oh well, but you didn’t did ya? So, no dwelling on alternative scenarios allowed. Accept your reality. Episode 2 of my novel is in jeopardy. Yes, it’s my fault. I am determined to learn from this. Right now it’s only a scare. I might not lose my data. Everything could still turn out fine. So, I am focusing on the present. What is important right NOW? Everything else is secondary.

3. Be honest with your readers

I made a mistake. This mistake means that my loyal readers won’t get to read the next Episode of Songs of Lea this week. I feel terrible about it. If I lose my 15,000 words, I will rewrite them (thank God for Story beats!!!). Explain, apologise, commit and deliver.

4. Keep writing

Like me, many writers project hop, meaning that they have more than one novel or short story in the pipeline at any given time. Move on to one of your other projects and invest some time there if you don’t have the nerve to start on the next chapter/episode without being able to reference your most recent part of the story or in case you don’t have story beats or an outline to guide you. I will sit down with my iPad tonight (probably in a fancy coffee shop after work) and write. I have no idea what I will write on but I will make sure to keep advancing one of my projects and keep feeling like my dream of being a full-time indie author is still achievable.

5. Come up with a data management plan

The thing that just gets me about today’s disastrous beginning is that my day job entails advising other people about how to protect and securely store their data. I lecture others about the importance of backups and recoverable cloud storage and here I am being a total data loser! I have to do better. Gosh, I can do better! I will sit myself down, work out a data management plan for my writing files and implement the crap out of the plan. This will help make me feel good about the future and create a sense of security for the present. I recommend it.

I hope that you have enjoyed this post and will learn from my mistake so that you don’t have to experience the same setback.

Please feel free to drop me a line in the comments below if this post has impacted on how you think about the tedious business of file backups and secure data storage.

Also: any consoling or encouraging comments most desperately welcome!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

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