I have this obsession with clean slates and new beginnings.
My biweekly cleaning sessions are probably normal people's spring cleaning. Things like New Years (for any calendar), solstices, new months, new weeks, alignments of the stars, in my mind all mark a chance for a fresh start.
Knowing this, the discovery that I cannot access all of the writing I've done in the past decade should be cause of a degree of happiness.
It really, really doesn't.
It turns out it's actually pretty disheartening.
It's my own fault. (Believe me, if I could blame this on anyone else, I would find a way.) I've computer-hopped a bit over the last decade. My sad tale starts on a hand-me-down Toshiba laptop, where my writing was dumped with only slight ceremony into Microsoft Word documents and subjected to an organizational system that probably made sense to me at the time.
Then my laptop flickered on the edges of life and I was forced to consider finding an alternative. This was nearly eight years ago, and in a fit of what I can only describe as youthful optimism, I decided to switch operating systems. Macs were shiny and had neat buttons and--I'm ashamed to say this really sealed the deal for me--had the option of keyboard covers. I shoved my money at Apple, was reassured by the "genuis" that fisted my cash that moving all of my important files off my Toshiba and onto the Mac would be an effortless process my elementary-aged sibling could have undertaken, and walked home with a Macbook Pro (and key cover) all my own, enamored in my first ever computer purchase.
Once transferred, I briefly utilized the Microsoft Office for Mac that I got with the laptop, but finding it to be a horrible experience highlighted by an endlessly spinning color wheel, I sought out a new program.
And stumbled on Storymill. Huzzah! I remember possibly thinking, as I promptly bought and downloaded the program. I began piecing together all of my various projects into this miracle program, elated at the ability to have entire sections dedicated to character profiles, an on-board timeline function, and pretty much more bells and whistles than I knew what to do with.
Note I haven't said anything about generating new content. That took a while; the shiny new program demanded I push all of the buttons first.
When I finally got down to the business of writing--continuing old stuff and starting new--I'd had the program for over a year and the computer itself for nearly two. I mention this so that we can sit here and think about the amount of story creation and writing that took place between then and when my computer died, four years later.
Thankfully I was obsessively in backing up my files. Instead of staying with Mac, I switched back to Windows--not necessarily out of any loyalty to the OS, but simply because I also wanted to play games and 85% of the ones I wanted to play were exclusive to Windows.
Impulsive decisions are a flaw of mine.
So now I had a new computer, new OS, and a fistful of virtual data on a USB thumb drive that represented the entirety of my adult writing life. The transfer was seamless, not because I was smart enough to initially format the drive in order to speak both OS languages, but out of happy accident.
Unfortunately, when I went in to open them, the format of the files themselves presented a problem. Everything was saved in Storymill's proprietary format. I can't open anything. And, much like those games I just needed to be able to play, Storymill is an application that is Mac-only.
To rub the seasalt even more thoroughly into the wound, the Macbook Pro that had so bravely soldiered on in the midst of my efforts to replace it died before I could attempt to convert the files and save my work.
I suppose the moral of this story is: always check to see which operating systems your software supports.
Or, when in doubt, save your stuff into every format possible.
(p.s. this never would have happened if I had stuck to hard copies)