Why losing your work is the best thing that could possibly happen

book-disappearing-textMy friend Rita recently posted a social media rant. It was peaceful and polite, but still a rant. She’d just spent hours on a beautiful short story, her computer did something-or-other and all of her work disappeared into the virtual equivalent of that place where all lost socks go.

She was understandably devastated, angry, frustrated and cursing her faulty auto-save feature and back-up gods. It was the first story in a collection she’s working on after being away from writing for some time focusing on her photography business (click here to go to Knots and Tots Photography) and other pursuits. She was proud of what I’m sure was a connected, creative and beautifully written piece. She was proud she’d finished it at all. Now she has nothing concrete to show for that time.

To find out more about Rebecca’s writing coaching services, head to rebeccagifford.com or send her a note at giffordrebecca@gmail.com.

It’s terrible. Heartbreaking. I’m sorry it happened to her. It’s happened to many of us at some point, and to me several times, including to an entire chapter of my most recent book. It is a loss and I have empathy.

But losing her work was probably the best thing that could have happened to Rita in that moment. It’s a lesson I share with my writing coaching clients, but often it doesn’t sink in until something like this happens.

All art, even very personal art, is only temporary. Writing is just energy. It’s frequency, intention, ideas and emotion made manifest into conscious form through words. It can and will be reimagined, reformed, recreated and reborn infinitely. It will be absorbed, perceived and reacted to (or not) differently by everyone who experiences it – often not just a little differently, but vastly differently. Once the reader absorbs it, it becomes something else. This lovely, thoughtful, creative, edited, downloaded, uploaded and intimate labor of love…it shifts, melds with the reader’s energy and essentially disappears the moment it’s been shared.

Not to worry, what you create is yours for a time. It’s connected to you, even a part of you. Most of the time it’s extremely personal. That’s why it’s so hard to watch it go earlier than you intended because you forgot to set up your iCloud backup. Once it’s released out into the world, it’s no longer yours anyway. It becomes something universal and collective. It’s a wisp, a wave, a series of codes.

There are three important lessons the universe reminds me of every time I lose my writing:

  1. There are no coincidences. If you lose a piece, even a brilliant one, there is a reason. It wasn’t meant to exist in this form. Perhaps it was a sacrifice so you could learn the universal truth that everything is always changing. Perhaps your ego or identity was too connected to it. Perhaps expectations about publication, reaction or success were too present in its creation. Whatever the reason, somehow the universe knew that it would have a greater impact if it went away and your perception was forced to shift. So it did.
  2. If you can let it go, what you create next will be even better. Every time – I mean every time – the next version of the work I lost was better than the first. And often not just a little better. Usually it’s a lot better. With time and space to germinate and reimagine its creation, you have an opportunity to tell a better story. With no ties to the previous structure or word choices, you have the freedom to explore a different path. With a sense of urgency to make up for the lost time, you are more inclined to write economically and make more thoughtful choices. As you revisit the same content again, your comfort level with it is greater. In its second draft, as with all second drafts, it becomes something more. Only this time you have the opportunity to work from a clean slate, and the result is always much better than the first.
  3. Writing well requires unconditional love. You need to love and embrace what you’re doing, every part of it, including the blocks, the doubt, the fear, the rejection. Even what Anne Lamott refers to as “shitty first drafts,” the computer glitches, the time you’re stuck in a meeting or in traffic while the fantastic idea or story you just wrote in your head floats away. These are all critical parts of the process and, as #1 clarifies, it’s all meant to happen on the path to the work you can’t wait to share with the world.  More importantly, writers need to have unconditional love for themselves as they experience all of this. Great writing is truly a labor of love and more. In this day and age there isn’t a lot of material or professional gratification to be found at the end of the Road of Persistence. The path is absolutely worth it – for the promise of great work, storytelling, connection, growth, self-expression, fun, contribution to the greater good, reaching the people who need to hear what you have to say, and the potential of at least enough abundance to continue your work. But it isn’t easy, you will make “mistakes,” and you won’t always handle them well. It’s okay. All the more reason to love yourself, forgive yourself, believe in what you’re doing and move forward.

So, Rita, please keep writing. Make sure you save early and often and have a computer back-up plan in place, but keep doing it. Because of this temporary setback, you will be a better, stronger writer and ultimately more people will benefit from your stories and perspective. I promise. Whatever you wrote once the fury subsided likely was fantastic. I can’t wait to read it.

To find out more about Rebecca’s writing coaching services, head to rebeccagifford.com.

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Other People’s Stories: Helping writers realize their dreams keeps joy in mine

let-the-light-guide-your-life-storyI love what I do. Truly. It took me a long time to figure out:

1) how I wanted to spend my time

2) how I was meant to spend my time, and

3) how to make it all come true.

It’s still evolving to some extent. The scenery is always changing, the players come and go and shift on their own paths, and words written with certainty transform and grow with each new day and new lesson. New opportunities may offer more than expected, more than the pursuits that have proven their grit and loyalty over the years by never, ever going away even when I kind of want them to. They are as present for me as my husband and son, and just as engaging. My purpose will never fade, but its appearance may alter from time to time.

These days I’m spending at least as much time helping others with their writing dreams and business goals as I am writing anything in my own voice. My writing coaching services are starting to appeal to folks. I have some fascinating clients, each so different from the next it’s like walking down a twisty literary path as scenes from different worlds play out among the trees and bramble. Add a road full of copywriting work (which I am always grateful for) and a surprise shower of cold and allergy season and you’ll get why I haven’t written a blog worth sharing in three weeks. The novel I’ve begun hasn’t been getting much attention either.

But I have to be honest. I don’t mind the break. One can get tired of the sound of one’s own voice, especially if you’re talking just so there are words on the page because I said I would blog something every other week and damn it the rules of social media say not to let your audience go too long without hearing from you because other people who are talking to them louder will draw them away like the pied piper and you’ll never get them back and what are you gonna do then?!

Loving what others do too, and helping them do it

Right now, the sound of other writers’ strange and beautiful voices are far more interesting to me than what that one might say. These brave souls allow me into their hearts, their psyches and their perfectly imperfect worlds, so I can help them tell the story blossoming inside them. They are still somewhere in Phase 1 or 2, but at the end of each session we smile at each other (through the magic of Skype) and know we got a little closer to 3. This fills me with joy and gratitude. Right now, just for a little while, that’s enough.

Writing is meant to be shared. I adore the interaction, the energy exchange, the perception shifts and infinite lessons we provide one another. But it is more meaningful when the perspectives are thoughtful, fresh and come from life lived outside of an office. So, the blog furlough will continue just a little longer. Projects, clients, guests and travel will make my writing time and online presence scarce for the next few weeks. That’s okay because I will come home to my writing full of new ideas, new energy for my work and many blog-worthy stories experienced with people I haven’t seen in way too long.

Meanwhile… I hope you writers keep writing and living and then writing about the living. May the characters, scenery and ideas shift just often enough to keep you working and playing with enthusiasm. May your voice be confident and stories be clear whether you have everything figured out or not. And may you love what you do, even if you’re not sharing the results with the world just yet.

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To find out more about Rebecca’s writing services, visit www.rebeccagifford.com. To read an excerpt from her upcoming memoir and sign up for updates, visit www.laughattheskykid.com.