Monday, August 3, 2009

Missing recordings -- ARGH! (sound of banshee screaming)

Use your imagination (I didn't have to). You are writing a memoir and you are a victim of the infernal April 1st Conflictor virus which happens two days before April Fool's Day. Now there's an April Fool's joke to rival any you've endured in the past! The hard drive in your computer has been eaten by some invisible gremlin. You are certain that you've backed everything up. What rational person wouldn't back up all files when working on a book?

You have a deadline looming for your memoir. Most of the book is complete and you run into a snag. Some questions are unanswered, some gaps unfilled. Your subject has died six months ago so you can't call and ask him to fill in the blanks. You search your multiple flash drives, hoping, hoping, that you will find the data hiding somewhere but it seems to be lost forever.

Your photographic memory is trying to envision your subject sitting in his chair telling you stories that will elicit your audiographic memory. Bits and pieces are returning, but it's not enough. The struggle is whether to delete passages that give only fragments of stories or work them into a place where the suspense seems intentional.

Suddenly, in addition, you realize that one of your supporting celebrity interviews is also missing. You try to call that person and get voicemail to do a repeat interview and get voicemail. You find out later that he was on tour in Germany and his cell phone service was waterlogged under the Atlantic somewhere. What does a writer do?

The answer is so obvious; why didn't you think of this before? You ask your spouse! He or she insists that you backed up the data and says to keep looking. The first flash drive was created after the crash. Then you insert the second, searching every little file and folder. And then, you drill down, folder into folder, down another folder and another -- and there it is! A folder with the missing files. Guess what, there aren't one or two. You find eight files, some over three hours long, that need to be listened to and possibly transcribed completely.

Remember, the deadline is hanging over you like a storm cloud. You can see what appears to be just a hint of a funnel sliding downwards from that cloud. There's only one thing you can do now. Take all your pillows, cell phone, flashlight and laptop, go in the closet and hope there's not a tornado about to rip your roof off and destroy everything. Secretly you hope it will, because then you'd have a good excuse to miss the deadline, abandon the project and get on with your life after a two and a half year investment in it.

An hour goes by. You pass your time playing Mah Jongg on the laptop when you see the battery is almost dead. The thunder has ceased. No tornado. No excuse. Time to get back out of the closet, go to your desk, plug in the computer and start listening to recordings.

Sure, you only have ten more days, but what's one day to listen, and possibly transcribe, hours of recordings? The book is almost done. The sky has cleared. The phone rings. It's the guy whose interview you thought you had lost. He apologizes for not getting back to you right away but he was in Germany playing keyboards with B.B. King. You chat with your friend as if nothing had happened. By now, you have his two hour interview and life will go on.

Another fantasy shattered. Time to get back into bed and take a nap.


Jai Joshi said...

My goodness, I was getting stressed just reading about your stress. I hope you find what you need and that everything was backed up.


Susan Cross said...

I think I found it all and I've been transcribing for awhile. Then I interviewed Cynthia Scott, a former Raelet, who has a new jazz CD out. Now I have to transcribe her interview. Thunder & lightning here so I'm going to disconnect. Then I have no excuse not to work off-line and catch up.

Thanks for your sympathy. I know the end is in sight. I got some GREAT photos of Leroy with Ray Charles today in the mail for the book. Very excited about that.