Thursday, June 25, 2009

When Disaster Strikes ( & You Lose 6 Hours Worth Of Work)

Let me start this post by stating that I should have taken my fellow blogger Kristen King's advice and emailed the document to myself as I worked on it. It would have made my life a whole lot easier.

And now for the story: on Monday I finished writing a lovely 1900-word feature which included a current affairs story with about 6 sources, a short profile, some fact boxes with web site links, pull-out quotes and some "did you know" bits and bobs.

It was not perfect, but I was fairly happy with it and planned to revise it the following day before I sent it to the editor.

After dinner, I decided to go through the piece again, because I'd had a couple of ideas on how I could improve it. And I could not find the article.

I searched by the article name, looked at recent documents, looked at recent items, went into the document folder itself and sorted it by date, and it was no there. I used keywords, looked for an autosaved document, checked the recycle bin ( in case I deleted it by accident ) and it was not there.

What was most disturbing was not that I could not find the article; it's that I had no footprint of ever working on that computer since mid-day that day, even though I only closed my computer after 6pm.

You can imagine how I felt when I realised that I was going to have to completely rewrite the article, in time to be submitted the following day.

Baby voted for me calling my editor to say, "sorry, the computer ate your article, so you're not getting it this year."

Poor thing, I think she's learning more than she ever wanted to know about having to deliver regardless of disasters.

I wrote well into the night ( I think I am a slow writer, and complicated pieces do tend to take time) and woke up early to finish it.

What surprised me about rewriting this article is that I could not replicate the first article. Obviously there were huge similarities, because I was writing to specific guidelines, and was using the same interview transcripts I used before.

But I also found my mind going into different directions, prompting me to find additional information that made the story richer. And if I do say so myself, the second take was a much better read. Not that I plan to use this system to improve my writing in the future!

As for the tech aspect of the problem, I reckon my computer must have had a small crash just before I closed it down, and reset itself for an earlier, much safer period. I could be wrong of course, not being a techie.

Anyway, if you want to see the final result, get yourself a copy of GradX at the end of July. It's a free annual student publication that is distributed to final-years students in tertiary institutions across South Africa.

This year 35 000 copies will be distributed from campus career counselling centres at public and private universities, universities of technology, colleges and other tertiary education institutions in all nine provinces, via Student Village promoters (


Ms Lona Lee Hart said...

Sorry about your lost article, D. I've "written" a number of excellent essays, stories, poems when I was least able to write/type them up - in the car (given the amount of time I spend on the road getting to and from the day job, it's not surprising). I have had the same problem replicating the direction and turn of phrases that rang so true in my head while driving. It's so frustrating that I've considered buying a voice recorder to keep in the car! I'm glad that in the end you managed to write an even better article, but I think you now owe yourself a good night's sleep and that computer of yours needs a kick in the hardware. Yours in volumes of magnificent writing.

Pamela said...

Yikes - you must have gone hot and cold a couple of times while looking for the article. Glad you were able to write it again and improve on it.

Damaria Senne said...

@Pam-I thought I was hallucinating! Even dragged Baby out for a walk around the neighbourhood, just to get perspective on the situation. Came back and the article still wasn't there. LOL.

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