What you write, you want to keep. You’ve written it; it exists—it’s not important to make a copy, don’t you think? Why on Earth would you need to keep one, or two, or even three back-ups of what you have written?
The simple answer is because writing is fragile. Paper can get blown away in the wind. Notebooks can get dropped down the toilet. Laptops can stop working for no good reason. I speak of this from personal experience—as I write this, I have been working on an 8,000-word short story for the past week or so. I’d got about 4,000 words in, and I was feeling pretty good about it—it was my entry to a competition, to be considered for inclusion into an anthology. Exciting.
Then my laptop died. I was using it just yesterday to watch Doctor Who whilst eating my dinner. My story was open on a Word document, and I was taking a break before resuming writing.
It was halfway through the latest episode of Doctor Who when the screen of my laptop went utterly blank. The machine had turned off and was refusing to restart. It was plugged in, before you start to speculate, and it hadn’t fallen over, had anything spilled over it, or been toyed with by an eight-year-old boy with a penchant for poking inanimate objects.
Of course, the loss of the laptop was upsetting, but more so was the realisation that my short story was gone, just like that. There was no fanfare, no long and drawn-out goodbye; it was merely gone, and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. Oddly, after a long and sleepless night wondering if I could piece it all together again from memory, I realised I was calm about it. I could quite possibly rewrite it, yes, but by the competition deadline? No, not a chance.
Backing up your work is easy enough—if you write on a computer with an internet connection then use a free automatically-backing-up cloud drive like Google Drive or OneDrive, or if that sounds too complicated then email your work to yourself regularly. If you refuse to allow the worst excesses of the internet anywhere near your precious piece of kit, then use an external hard drive or a USB pen drive and save it there as well as on your computer. Maybe use two separate drives if you want to be particularly safe—in case the first one disappears down a drain.
If you write on paper—for many, the notebook is the way forward—then take photos of your work so that you can replicate it, or photocopy everything if that’s easier.
Backing up might be a faff when you want to finish for the evening but consider the alternative. Weigh up what can be lost and avoid that sense of loss and grief I felt in the moment.
© 2020 Matthew Munson
Available under the Thanet Writers Education Policy
Thanet-based author Matthew has three novels published by Inspired Quill, is an inveterate blogger, and writing is his passion.