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Panic

31 October 2004

Ah, me. When things are not going so well for me, I do have this pronounced tendency to panic, to over-react to the small stuff. Itís all about assuming the worst, and not taking time to work things through. Cold sweats, a tremble in the fingers and a magnificent self-contempt. The word panic comes of course from the great god Pan, and so traditionally does the emotion; the original meaning is said to be that sense of irrational terror that can creep over you in a forest, the feeling that youíre being stalked by some creature more powerful than you and not at all kindly disposed. Last weekend, I managed that almost literally: got myself lost in a wood, with time slipping away and people waiting. Another time, perhaps another personality, it could have been fun; for me, now, not.

This week, today, it was the urban version, the metaphoric. The more unhappy I am about other stuff, workwise and otherwise, the more I am enjoying working on the young-adult fantasy; itís good, when your job can also be your displacement activity. So I turned on the computer this morning keen to get back to it, fired up the word processor - and found it gone. The whole file, ten thousand words, thirty-odd pages, simply not there.

Instant hit on the panic button, because my usual cautious habits have slipped, these last couple of months. Thing is, almost all the work Iíve been doing has been rewrites, which means spending days and weeks mucking about in the middle of large files, changing a little here and a little there; which means that I save my work frequently, and make back-ups of course, but I donít print out as I go. So, being out of the habit of it, I havenít been printing Moonshadow either. Which meant that this morning I was looking at a potential loss of twenty pages of redrafts from earlier versions, and ten pages of new material. Howl! I hate, hate, hate losing material. Itís never the same when you try to rewrite from memory; and Iíve only ever lost a page or two before. Ten pages, I couldnít even remember half of what was in them...

Still, never mind. Be soothed. I had at least retained my habit of backing up; last thing I did last night was copy that dayís final version onto a floppy. Should be fine.

So I went to open that file, and could not. Corrupted, it was: presumably by the selfsame problem that had wiped the version off my hard drive.

So I tried opening it in another word processing program, and then in a basic editor, and nothing worked.

By now, panic was in full-on mode, but I thought I was still thinking. There is sometimes an advantage in having two alternative operating systems. Windows is just so baffled by Linux files, it can be persuaded to open even the most corrupted, where Linuxí own sense of security wonít allow it. So I boot up der cursed Windoze, and approach my poor story from hiss-yuck Word.

And yup, weíre in. Weíre into 1300 pages of wild code, with my own lovely paragraphs lurking in the undergrowth, here and there.

Happily, they were lurking in whole paragraphs, so it was actually possible to track them down. Took me half the day, and even then there were two long sections that had been written over by the opening pages repeating themselves twice more, presumably a symptom of the initial malaise, whatever that may have been.

So I was going to have to rewrite a couple of chunks, and that was miserable enough - except that halfway through the hunt, when the panic had receded far enough for me to be at least a little rational, I remembered that of course I had my original word processor set up to make automatic back-ups of the previously saved version. Iíd just forgotten to check it. And being in mid-rescue, I wasnít going to break off a slow and wearisome but successful operation in hopes of something easier, so I carried on. Got to the end of the recovery process, saved it three different ways, printed it out, and quit Windows. Went into Linux, started up the WP, enquired quietly after the back-up - and there it was, perfect in every detail and entirely uncorrupt.

So there went my Sunday. Iíd hoped to finish the new material today, but now? Now Iím going to start drinking.


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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.