When Improvised Life went down over the holidays due to the web host’s mighty and prolonged fail, there was the possibility that data backups had been damaged and six years of work could be lost. Many readers responded with heartening messages and offers of help. Ever-wise performance artist Fast Forward (whom I became friends with years ago through Improvised Life) had the most interesting view of this potential loss:

I ‘imagine’ all will be restored, but of course that is unpredictable at this point.

BUT what I will say is that re-addressing, or starting afresh is a rather exhilarating experience.

A clean palette, a breath of fresh air and a wide open road ahead. Something akin to leaving the congestion of NYC and finding yourself driving in the along in the mid-west with the sound of insects in the air, the wind rushing through the window and the cacti whizzing by.

What’s not to like . . . . .?

I tried the idea on and could feel the open road ahead that Fast talked about AND shock at the idea that I might have nothing to show for years of writing, thinking, finding, corresponding, designing: a”bride stripped bare“. And I knew of quite a few artists that very consciously destroyed their work in order to keep pushing into new territory (Louis C.K.. being one). The Talking Heads came to mind as I waited to see if indeed my house was burning down? (

The lyrics are all about liberation:

Watch out, you might get what you’re after
Cool babies, strange but not a stranger
I’m an ordinary guy
Burning down the house

Hold tight
Wait ’til the party’s over
Hold tight
We’re in for nasty weather
There has got to be a way
Burning down the house

Here’s your ticket pack your bags
Time for jumpin’ overboard
The transportation is here
Close enough but not too far,
Maybe you know where you are
Fightin’ fire with fire

All wet, hey, you might need a raincoat
Shakedown, dreams walking in broad daylight
Three hundred sixty five degrees
Burning down the house

It was once upon a place,
Sometimes I listen to myself
Gonna come in first place
People on their way to work,
Baby, what did you expect?
Gonna burst into flame

Burning down the house

My house’s out of the ordinary
That’s right
Don’t want to hurt nobody
Some things sure can sweep me off my feet
Burning down the house

No visible means of support
And you have not seen nothin’ yet
Everything’s stuck together
And I don’t know what you expect
Staring into the TV set
Fighting fire with fire


I knew that even if Improvised Life’s archive did disappear, I would be okay. I have written about and know plenty of people who have lost homes, years of work, become disabled and they all found their way. I would too.

Another path would present itself. It always does. Fast is right. That IS a liberating idea.

Come with Me/Ellie Davies
Come with Me/Ellie Davies

Thanks Fast! Bottom photo from “Come with Me” by Ellie Davies


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9 replies on “A New View of Losing Years of Work

  1. So glad you are back!
    Bright Blessings for the New Year!
    Ni(Virginia) Reeves

  2. Hi Sally
    It is good that you are trying on for size what it would feel like to lose your archives. I have to admit that as a Friend with Benefits, I troll through the archives looking for something I vaguely remember, whatever it might be or to look up specific topics. Personally, I would really miss the archives. Thank you for your work.
    I was especially touched by the post about people struggling with the holidays due to losses. Having lost my spouse to cancer in 2015, I appreciated being acknowledged with such beautiful images and words.

  3. I’m not sure this link will take you to the place I intend. I want to link you to the cartoon that shows a man tied to a chair while masked men steal his tv. It’s another attempt to see the possible positive side of an unplanned and involuntary loss of “stuff.”
    It also reminds me a response to the old question “Is the glass half full or half empty?” Answer: “The glass is always totally full, half with liquid, half with air.” Just think of all the air you can fit into your glass when you get rid of the liquid! Of course, this is all easy for me to say as I sit here with all my “stuff” firmly in place.

  4. There was no way to directly link to the cartoon in the New Yorker’s giant viewer so I snagged the cartoon you mentioned and will publish and your great comment as a post. THANK YOU

  5. Thank you Ni Reeves…Wishing you a blessed year…

  6. Marguerita, I am so very sorry to hear of your great loss. I am glad if the piece helped even a bit…
    Writing it helped me navigate my own sadness at a number of losses this past year, and I knew several friends were having a hard time as well. As Samuel Marchbanks noted: Sadness “on the holidays is considered un-American, or, at best, a disease.” NOT. Something to pay honor and learn from.

  7. Ohh, I look forward to a post based on my comment! I’m honored.
    As I reread this post a line jumped out at me . . . “I might have nothing to show for years of writing, thinking, finding, corresponding, designing”. I’d like to remind you that you’d still have a lot to show for your years of work: friends you’ve made, changes you’ve made to your life and abode, memories of the posts, the knowledge that you have improved and inspired other peoples lives. A few days ago I used “What’s not wrong?” in a conversation with a friend who was having a meltdown. Thank you for that post, and for so many others that I have used to improve my life. And remember, throughout most of the history of human beings we have lived, and thrived, without physical and digital archives.

  8. Oh Sally, the thought that you would have nothing to show for your years of work is so disturbing, alarming really. You don’t even KNOW what there is to show because you have strewn it all over the world with your comments, posts, open windows, poems, notions of how to see, draw, write, be and all the rest! You have no idea how many followers open Improvised Life first thing every day and thus perhaps set a tone or altogether different notion for the theme of day.

    I think of it as you flinging an open window from which to see something entirely different than anything we woke up with in mind. Some mornings I call it tripping the light fantastic as I browse from one site to another. I am a right brained thinker so all of this beauty, art, poetry is what I need, for sure. There are days when I look at the day very differently than I would have without your touch. Like others who wrote, last year was one of huge personal loss of a sister, long time love and father of one of my children and…

    So, steady yourself and launch. I have learned from you how to do it, surely you can too. Written from the left coast where El Nino is wreaking havoc on our environment, outside and internally as well. ANY day forced to be inside is new and unusual for the natives. Here I am writing instead of whatever I would have done outside…see what I mean? w/love and hug Susan

    There was a beginning to this post that disappeared…serendipity for sure.

  9. Susan, your amazing comment has been working on me for a couple of days now, as I try to find the words to thank you for it. Although I’ve never been good at articulating formal “goals” in any of my endeavors, I’d say you’ve described what I’d always hoped Improvised Life would do. And this last near-miss has shown me abundantly that it does, as many readers have shown up to help in various ways. And that the possibility of loss and “having nothing to show” is a great example of thinking INSIDE the box of “having to have stuff to show” that I hear from everyone: website numbers and/or instagram followers etc. All of us who have lost PEOPLE the last while know how much their lives/work/being continues to resonate long after they are gone. SO, thank you for reminding me and for your affirmation of this very mysterious path that is Improvised Life.

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