I have learned a lot over the last few years.
I’ve learned that mental health recovery is possible, but that it takes work. I’ve learned that progress, real progress, is measured in inches, not in miles.
Real progress is measured in the daily grind, how you respond to life’s problems. I encountered one such problem in the last couple days. The creative writing project that I was working on, and had a considerable amount of time invested in, was gone. Missing off my cloud backup. Missing off my hard drive, and apparently not backed up to my external hard drives.
In times past, I would have gotten really upset. I would have questioned my self-worth. I would have questioned why I ever thought I could be a writer. Basically, something this trivial could have been the kick off to a depressive episode, or at least a full borderline rage incident.
Even as I write this, I see how insane it sounds, but that was my life. What’s changed is how I’m dealing with the issue. I didn’t get upset. I calmly, and cooly, went through all my usual save locations for the file. I tried a couple of different ways to access the file, incase the program I use to write was still talking to it (no such luck). Instead of over-reacting, I worked the problem.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still pretty torqued that the file is gone, representing hours of work and creativity that I’ve put into it, but really, having a melt down is going to change the fact that it’s gone.
Instead of getting down on myself about the loss though, I changed perspective. Being brutally honest with myself, that work was never going to see the light of day. It was a first draft of my first try at writing a mystery novel, and the plot was getting convoluted and shaky. I know it.
However, despite the file going missing, there are still positives out of the experience.
First, it is the furthest I’ve ever gotten into a piece of work, and the associated lessons learned from the drafting of the tale are invaluable. Also, getting that far into the story shows me that if I can get there once, I can get there again.
Second, the experience has taught me that building a tale takes time.
The average general fiction novel comes in around 80 000 words. I was around 25 000 words into this piece, and like I said, it took me hours to get there. The experience has taught me to manage my expectations. I’m not going to knock out the Great Canadian Novel in a few hours. Instead it will likely be more like weeks to months.
Third, the experience has taught me the value of mindfully backing up my docs to multiple locations, regularly. The fact that this file is gone is on me…though I do blame a certain iOS update…but the fact that it wasn’t saved where I thought it was is on me. Getting pissed off or down on myself over it doesn’t change that fact.
So, where does that leave me?
Well, I’ve already started a new project to work on through the winter. I’m taking the lessons learned and carrying them forward in my plotting, in my writing, and definitely in the way I’m backing up the files.
Despite this setback, I have the confidence to push forward in my writing career. That confidence is a game changer for me. It’s a sure indication of the improvements I’ve made in my life over the last couple of years.
I spoke with M2 this afternoon, and told her that things are “scary good” right now. There’s little drama in my life. I’m not living in a constant state of anxiety, waiting for the next bad thing to come down the line. Instead, I’ve got the strength and confidence to live in the now, and deal with issues as they arrive, instead of pre-worrying about maybes.
It’s taken me the better part of two decades to reach this point, but I’m at a point where I ask “what next?” with anticipation instead of dread.
Mentally, I’m at the best position that I’ve been in in years, though I know it’s tempered by knowing how fast that can change. Still, looking back over the last five years, I can see the progress I’ve made has been drastic, though I didn’t see until I stopped looking for it.
Thanks for tagging along.