In the past six months there have been perhaps three occasions where I have felt as if my world was imploding. Occasion number one was on the 31st of last December, when I asked out a guy I really liked and he rejected me. I wrote a blog on that topic at the time, so I’m not going to go into it now. The second occasion was more recent, only a couple of months ago, when I found out that one of my Media teachers (one of my favourite people in the entire universe) was leaving at the end of this school year. Finding out he was leaving hit me really hard, because I had relied on him so much. He’s the person I go to when I’m having one of my many emotional breakdowns, he’s the person I go to when I need advice about anything, he’s the one who can make me laugh no matter how sad I am (by “laugh” I mean “laugh at myself”). But the third occasion was a hundred times worse than these first two combined.
Tuesday should have been a good day. I only had three lessons, and they were all with some of my favourite teachers. But Tuesday was a rubbish day, and when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, it did. I had finally gotten past my writers’ block, and written 1,488 words, and so later in the day I decided to write some more. I clicked on the Microsoft Word document that my book was saved as. An error message came up. The file was corrupted. I had been writing it that very afternoon and it had been fine. I reacted accordingly: I spent the entire evening sobbing.
On Wednesday, I took the memory stick my book had been saved on to one of the IT technicians at school, and he told me that if a file was corrupted, it couldn’t be saved. I wasn’t going to give up that easily, so I went off and tried to fix it myself. Plugged memory stick into computer. Error message came up. “There is a problem with this device”, etc, “scan and fix(recommended)”. Clicked scan and fix. It scanned, certainly, but it didn’t fix. It didn’t fix at all. It deleted. My book – the book I have been writing since 9th August 2013 – deleted. And, because I am a complete idiot who now really hates herself for it, I hadn’t backed up my book on my laptop for absolutely ages. The most recent copy I had was from months ago. I had lost 23,000 words/46 A4 pages. I had lost just over a third of the novel. Naturally, I spent the afternoon crying in the toilets at school. I was devastated; I didn’t know how to move on from this. I don’t know how to move on from this.
Fun fact: I have somehow taken on my main character’s (Katerina’s) voice whilst writing this blog. The narrative style is eerily similar to The Choices We Made, which probably emphasises just how much I’m missing it. I’ll know I’ve turned into Katerina if I started using the Power of Three technique all the time (e.g “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know” or “I can’t cope, I can’t cope, I can’t cope”). All I know is that I put so much of myself into that character, that book, and now I feel like I’ve lost a friend, lost myself even. This feeling of grief clutches constantly at my heart, squeezing it tighter and tighter, filling me with dread. Because I don’t know what to do. I can’t give up on this book after two years, but I also can’t recreate what I’ve lost. I lost almost every major scene in the book. I lost weddings, attempted suicides, schemes, revealed secrets, sabotage, ascension of thrones, and, most importantly, practically all of Katerina’s character development. Who am I without her? I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
I never thought that Katerina and I were particularly similar, although we always had a few things in common. But lately I’ve been noticing many parallels between us. We developed together. We reached the same revelations, made the same choices, and I didn’t even realise it. And now I have to make these choices alone, and I have to rewrite this novel whilst being hindered by hindsight. When I wrote the past 23,000 words, the ones that are now lost to me, I didn’t know what choices she would make, or what choices Ansel (my other main character) would make. They completely swerved off course a couple of scenes ago. I wasn’t meant to know how they would turn out whilst I was writing. How can I write their undoing when I now know their road to redemption? I’ve lost the element of surprise, and lost trust as a result of this. Because now that I know my characters’ fates, I no longer have to trust in them as I write. And, as Katerina realised before this realisation fell into the computer’s abyss, trust and love are not synonymous, they can exist without each other. Now that I trust my characters, can I love them? And just because I love them, does that mean I can trust them? Can I rewrite a third of the book without them changing it completely?
Sometimes I feel that perhaps the worlds I create are a metaphor for my own life. I read this piece of writing advice a few months ago “What’s the one thing your character can’t live without? Take it away from them”, and I feel as if the roles have been reversed, and that this has been done to me, as if I am the character in a book, as if I have no control of my own fate. I feel like I’m losing everything. I’m losing two, probably three, of my favourite teachers next year (one’s retiring, the other’s moving schools, and I will probably lose the third due to timetable reshuffling), and I don’t know what to do without them. I rely on them so much, and I’m going to have to live without them. I thought I could cope with that, because I had my book, and I could never lose my book. But I have. I have lost my book, and now I feel as though I have lost everything that matters to me. (Okay, I still have 41,000 words, and I’ll still have at least two of my favourite teachers, but still…)
I wonder if perhaps this is the character development I have to endure, the torture that makes me stronger. Last night, when I was sobbing uncontrollably because everything I love is shattering around me, sharp shards of lost hoping snowing down from the bitter sky and stabbing me in the heart, my mum said to me something along the lines of “I know this is awful now, but think of all the new beginnings you’ll have”, and I said I didn’t want things to begin, I just wanted the things I already had to continue. But I know that they’re lost, and that I can’t get them back.
And I will mourn my book, every lost detail, every sentence, paragraph, chapter, phrase that will never return to me, just as I mourn my Media teacher and his ridiculous spiky hair, or my English teacher who I’ve had since year eleven, who’s known me since the days when I wrote about cannibalism on my mock exam, or my other English teacher who I might be losing, the one who compared my knowledge to that of Google. I will mourn everything I am losing and have lost. But I have to move on, I have to move forwards. Onwards and upwards, no matter what. And unlike Katerina, I do not feel that when you reach the top your safest bet is to crash right back to rock bottom. I do not believe that at all.
I will mourn in my own way. I will listen to Lana Del Rey songs (or “Old misery guts” as my mum calls her), and I will cry, and I will probably not start to salvage my book for a little while yet. But I will move on. Just as I will not assume that my new teachers will not be able to replace my old ones. Because, no matter what we lose, there will be something out there, somewhere, that will fill our emptiness. That something can never replace what we have lost, but it can fill an emptiness we never knew we had.
And no matter how long I spend crying over my lost words, I know that I’ll write new ones, I know that I’ll move on, and that I will finish this goddamn book because I will not allow myself another choice. I will not give up, I will not give up, I will not give up. This is who I am, and I will recover.