20 April 2007

just a mild case of inconsolable rage

"Ah, life is like that—sometimes at the height of our revelries, when our joy is at its zenith, when all is most right with the world, the most unthinkable disasters descend upon us."
--A Christmas Story

People sometimes ask me why I am occasionally prone to be perhaps the tiniest bit cynical and negative about things. I contend that I am not negative, but that I do have a healthy and hard-won appreciation for the way heartbreak can jump from around a blind corner, pistol-whip us to the ground, grab our wallets, then kick us in the kidneys twice for good measure before leaving us in a crumpled bloody heap in some sorry damp allegorical alley, gasping and gaping like a carp on the beach.

House odds do not favor the player in this joint we call Life, and if ever you find yourself riding a long winning streak, you'd better damned well bank some winnings while they are still yours to claim, as the worm will turn, my pretties, and when she does, she turns like a screw.

Coarse thread. Long and rusted.


The warning signs were all there: things were skimming along way too easily, way too pleasantly.

I'd returned from my most recent Hollywood fly-by a few weeks back with a dangerously and uncharacteristically upbeat outlook.

I'd found a cool new idea to work on which every LA player i've peeked it to has sparked interest with a wide giggling grin.

I'd discovered a great new card-based outlining program which was letting me free-stroke through the design and brainstorming process like nobody's business.

I'd been kicking ass and taking names for a solid week, and the outline was more than 80% completed with only the first half of the last act left to formally line out in written form. I knew where I was going, I knew how to get there, and I knew the twists and turns I'd likely encounter as I roared down the scenic route to that finish line.

Things were clearly going too good, and my Spidey Sense should have told me to keep my head on a swivel as that callous vindictive bitch named Reality was surely coming soon to slap some sense into me.

Well, yesterday, Thursday 19 April 2007, at approximately 4:19 pm CST, she showed up, fully lubed and ready for disco, baybee.

She smiled brightly, put a well-manicured hand on my shoulder, and leaned in close to whisper in my ear with that sultry voice she always seems to use:

Ooooo... remember me, baby?"

Then up comes the knee, square into the groin, and that too-familiar tide of nausea washes over you before all just fades to gray....


There are few things as deliciously evil, as perfectly frustrating, as a well-timed software failure.

38 notecards in an outline program—cards filled with loads of great specific line ideas and scene descriptions, something far more like a proto-draft than an outline, maybe 70 pages of material—suddenly goes "poof" and you remember all those times you've advised friends "remember to back up your work!"

Except this time I had. I'd made a duplicate of the file I was working on and had stashed it elsewhere on my drive so that when that bitch came a-knocking, I'd be protected. Safe-guarded. Ready to rumble. She'd do her nasty business, and I'd just smile and laugh.

Well, there was laughter, but it t'werent't mine, as this particular collapse overwrote my BACKUP copy with a backup of the original file which was being totally corrupted.

What specifically happened? Nobody yet seems able to say. The software people have tried to recover both files and they say "it appears the files have not been altered since 10 days ago," when in fact I'd been working like a demon those ten days. The net effect is that all work down since 13 April 2007 is gone—just gone, baybee. Like it never fucking happened.

So that cool new project I was skimming so happily along with? I'm back to square one. Well, not square one—more like square four or five—but given that only yesterday I was motoring past square number 39 or so, it still sucks muchly the same.

Now I sit here and whine lyrically about the raging anger and numbing depression the situation has stirred, but in my heart of hearts I already realize there are but two options today: either buck up or give up. March or die, soldier.

Contest season looms huge on the rapidly approaching near-term horizon—ten days 'til Nicholl, forty 'til Austin—and I sit here with no pages but only the muddled memory of a nearly-finished outline now lost at sea.

The options left to me now seem limited. Either I kick unholy ass in the next week, or I'm left trying to jump-start my stagnated career for the next year using what little attention I can garner by cold-calling and cymbal-banging. Part of me badly wants to grab a softball bat in frustration and just go use the cat for fungo practice, but instead I'll wax my moustache, button up my waistcoat and adjust the brim of my cap to a properly rakish angle as I remember one of the few worthwhile bits of Gallic military inspiration:

"Hard pressed on my right. My center is yielding. Impossible to maneuver. Situation excellent. I am attacking."
-- message to HQ from Gen. Ferdinand Foch

Fuckin ay, bubba. Once more into the breach.
Tenacious B (too big to kill, too dumb to quit)


Burghmovies said...

Lock and load, sir.

I wandered over here from Julie's blog a few weeks ago and I think I'll stay.

I've been this post, and cringe. I can't wait to get back to my mac to email myself a copy of my latest work this terrified me so.

I'm glad to see you are fighting back. It's an inspiration. I've concluded this must be the quantum six month stretch of a former life in which I tortured small woodland creatures 'cause Lady Luck has a five on two twist stranglehold for longer than I care to remember. But you're right, rub dirt in it.

Thanks for a good blog, thanks for reminding me to drag my sorry ass off the pavement and get back in the game.

Harry Connolly said...

Oh my stars and garters....

What in the writing world is more infuriating than a corrupted backup? I can't think of anything at the moment.

Best wishes to you, sir, and good luck in the coming fight.

greebs said...

That frickin sucks, man.

My old iBook just completely died on me - fortunately, I'd backed most things up...and that which I hadn't I could drag off the old Mac (ok, it didn't completely die) onto the brand new MacBook.

Godspeed, sir.

Tenacious G

C W Magee said...

Stop posting, get back in writing mode.

Get a pen and the biggest piece of paper you have.

Draw, from memory, the card layout that you last remember.

Then, for each card, rewrite the key things that were most important to you.

Chances are, the emotionally riveting scences will still be in your head, and the connecting tissue will either follow or be able to be redone without losing much.

Just do it before you um and ah and try to remember bits and pieces too much.

aggiebrett said...


Usually I make sure that I have emailed copies to myself, have burned CDs of critical files (all screenplays, all address lists, etc), but I've also taken to using a cheap USB thumbdrive to make regular backups of files in progress. If there's a tornado or attack of killer leeches, I can grab the drive and be out the door with my current stuff in my pocket.



I just wish I had thought to PRINT OUT the damned thing at some point in recent days.



It's amazing just how much STUFF accumulates on a computer. It's like moving from an old house-- suddenly you become painfully aware of how much odd yet "can't throw away" stuff you keep dragging around in your life.



Already have 30% of teh thing re-done, and will likely get the bulk of it (or something like it) re-captured by the end of this weekend.

It's not te emotions that I fear losing-- I had quite a few very fun specific line exchanges and gags and bits worked out cleanly and efficiently, and now I'll have to go back and try to recreate not just the picture, but the actual brushstrokes. A pain

Thanks, all.