I live my working life – both day-job and writing wise – off a USB stick. It’s a necessity, ’cause I’m routinely shuffling between three or four different computers depending on where I am, and I like the option of being able to pick up and work on a particular project with an absolute minimum of planning ahead.
So you can imagine what a pain-in-the-arse it was when I dropped Shifty Silas the laptop last night and did this:
USB sticks are not meant to sit at that angle, you know? This one was completely dead.
Fortunately for me, this wasn’t a huge deal. Silas is still working fine and I lost about an hour of work, which sucks, but isn’t as bad as it could have been.
But it’s a useful reminder: back-up your work.
I used to do a semi-regular post on my blog reminding everyone of this, usually timed to coincide with the anniversary of the day when I lost every damn thing on my computer back in 2006.
That was a bad day for me. Really bad.
And mostly it was bad ’cause I was already one of those people who was convinced I backed up everything. I downloaded all my active projects onto a back-up drive once a week or so. I kept copies on my computer and the USB drive I used when I migrated between university and the office at home. I was one of those people who was all redundancies, motherfucker, I have them.
It didn’t help. My computer went kaboom – a smoke-coming-from-the-back kind of kaboom – and ’cause my back-ups were plugged in, they went with it. And ’cause I’d just moved house, I’d culled pretty much all the paper print-outs prior to packing, which meant I had…well, very little.
I wailed. I gnashed teeth. I called the university and explained the problem, ’cause at the time I was about a year shy of submitting my PhD and I’d just lost fucking everything: drafts; research notes; stories I’d been working on for the creative project. Everything.
A couple of months after that I closed the doors on creating new work for the Clockwork Golem Workshop, the micro-publisher I’d been working on for about two and a half years, ’cause I’d lost all of that as well.
If you’re a writer, a publisher – hell, anyone who makes their living off your computer – the simple rule is you do not back up enough. Even after the kind of catastrophic data-loss I had back in 2006, where I amped up my already-pretty-obsessive back-up procedures, I got lulled into a sense of complacency. I’m comprehensive enough that losing a USB isn’t going to do me too much harm, but last night reminded me that some of my off-site back-up procedures should probably be revisited.