Friday, June 03, 2011

Washing The Elephant

"Writing a book is like washing an elephant. There's no good place to begin or end and it's hard to keep track of what you've already covered." - Unknown

I've used Word Perfect since 1987, but the world seems to have left me behind. When I bought a new computer last year, I had it loaded with Microsoft Word. I began to learn it and then a friend told me about Open Office. I downloaded that and began to use it as well. Unfortunately, I didn't realize I was alternating between the two programs. They were both unfamiliar in similar ways and I accidentally saved two different versions of the memoir about my father with the same name, one in each program. Not realizing my error, I continued working in both documents, at times one, at times another, for about nine months before I realized my error. Luckily, those were some of the least productive writing months I'd had in years and so I didn't make many changes. The Word compare function tells me there are ONLY 1,724 differences between the two documents. Still.

Like many problems, this one shouldn't have happened. I'm rather compulsive about recording changes. I number the documents sequentially the same way we did when I was an attorney: Version 1. Version 1.1. Version 1.2, etc. Then I update a document called "Version List" in which I, allegedly, track the changes I've made. Notwithstanding all my tracking, I now have two documents which need to be combined. Did I mention that these are 82,000 word documents? That's approximately 260 double spaced pages. Sigh.

I'm still stewing about the most efficient way to solve this problem and, in the process, wasting valuable time. Bottom line, we all make mistakes. It's time for me to accept reality, compare each document with the version before it, and start cutting and pasting to make a brand new document. Can I see this as an opportunity? Can I wind up with a version better than any of the versions before? The only way to know is to do the work. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Have you ever blundered in your writing process and lived to tell about it? I'd love to hear how you handled it.