Well, first I read an article about a writer’s notebook, you know, the book where we write down all the ideas and scraps of conversations and moments of inspiration we have. The writer happened to mention that he’d be devastated if he lost it.
Then I read about Jane Austen nearly losing her writing desk – full of money and manuscripts – when a coach drove away with it. And then I read about J.K. Rowling nearly not being allowed through airport security because she wouldn’t let go of her handwritten manuscript for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – it was the only copy, and she held tight to it all the way home.
All week I’ve been reading about losing manuscripts.
If someone asked me what I’d save from a fire, it’d be my latest manuscript. It’s a particular horror of mine – of all writers, I think – to lose my handwritten notes.
Once I start writing on a computer, I save it all over the place – on the hard drive, on a flash drive, on a cloud drive. I’m paranoid about saving every tiny little change everywhere. But what can I do about that first, hand written draft? I once thought of photocopying the entire thing as I went along, but that was unfeasible.
I do take the book out with me. (I use the notes program on every electronic device I own to take random notes, so I’m not so worried about losing those). I like to write in coffee shops, but I’m always in a state of mild panic. What if I lose it? What if it falls through a previously unseen hole in my bag? What if someone steals it? What if I spill coffee all over it, or I get soaked to the skin in a sudden downpour, and all the ink runs? I end up checking it’s still there every ten minutes.
I sympathise with J.K. Rowling not wanting to let go of her manuscript even for a second to pass through airport security. What if the X-Ray machine chose that moment to blow up? What if it somehow got caught or shredded on something inside there? What if it just disappeared?
All ridiculous ideas, you might say – but it happens. Hemingway’s wife lost a whole suitcase full of his manuscripts. For me, those handwritten pages are the most precious objects I own.