Sunday, June 7, 2015

Practical Advice

A while back, I responded to a question that a girl wrote in the advice section of the American Girl website, giving her the good advice that no one else would say (well, that the adults running the site wouldn't post anyway):

I'd like to do the same thing with more questions that jump out at me. This question is heavily paraphrased because it's no longer posted:

I love to write stories, but recently, my brother accidentally deleted my story from the computer. Now I feel so discouraged that I can't get myself to write anymore. How can I get myself motivated to write again?
-Discouraged Writer

My Answer:

1. First of all, your story that got deleted might not be gone for good. If your brother accidentally deleted it, it might still be in your computer's recycle bin. Check there first. If the file is not on your computer, ask yourself if you might have saved a backup copy without realizing it. Did you email the story to any friends or family members to share it with them? If so, you will have a copy of the story saved in your email. If you cannot find the story yourself, the file might still be on your computer, but not in a place that you can access easily. Try searching the internet for ways to recover the file, or ask someone who knows a lot about computers to help you.

2. If you cannot recover the file, it's totally okay to feel upset about losing that story. If you are up for it, try to write as much as you can remember of the story, even if you have to summarize and paraphrase a lot of things. Since you just wrote the story recently, it might still be fresh in your mind, and you might be able to recover a lot of it from memory.

3. Plan to back up your work going forward. Every time you write a story on the computer, save it in more than one place. You can use a memory stick, or email a copy to yourself (or both). Make sure that you have a backup of each story someplace other than on your computer, in case the computer malfunctions. Make sure that when you make changes to a story, you update those changes on your backup files as well. It is really disheartening to lose things that you have worked so hard on, but by finding a way to backup your files from now on, you can ensure yourself that this will not happen again and all of your future stories will be safe.

This is the answer that I would need to hear if I were in this girl's shoes, but it's an answer that no one gave. Absolutely no one mentioned anything about getting the original story back. Maybe I'm underestimating the tech-savviness of kids today. Maybe I should assume that kids today would know enough to look in the recycle bin even though I would not have known that when I was younger. But there are ways to recover lost documents nowadays and this person probably does not know all of those options. None of the other answers that got picked for this question included advice on recovering the original story - they just accept that it's a lost cause and push her to move on from the past. It really bothers me that this story might have still been within her reach, but no one gave her the advice to try to get it back.

Secondly, the clear solution to this problem is to back up her work going forward. While it doesn't fix the issue of the first story being lost, it fixes the issue of having to worry that this might happen again. If I were in this girl's position, knowing that I had a plan in place so that I would never lose my work again would make a huge difference to me, and would make me a lot more interested in continuing to write. Out of all the answers that got picked (about 10-15), only one mentioned anything about backing up documents going forward. All the rest were just words of encouragement, telling the person not to "let" this incident get her down.

Being encouraged in the sense of having people tell me I'm a good writer and they wanted to read more of my stories would help a little, but the main things that would help me would be trying to get the original story back and having a plan in place so that this would not happen again. If the first story could not be recovered, I would definitely need a lot of warm fuzzy cuddles because I would be upset, but ultimately, the only way I would really keep going after that would be to have the preventative plan in place.

It's such a simple solution, but most of the "advice" that got picked said nothing about backing up your work and were all just, "You can do it!" and "Go for it!" and "Don't let this get you down!" None of that advice would help me at all, and I'm just hoping that if this person is the same way, that someone in her life showed her how to back up files going forward.

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