Back It Up


I got the idea for this from the pre-existing question when first creating a profile: “What advice do you have for aspiring writers?” Being a new author myself, I felt I haven’t earned a place to offer any advice at all. Then I realized, “Hey, I’ve made tons of stupid mistakes. Others can definitely learn from that!” Hence my attempt at blogging. When I answered the question on my profile, I did so with the self-understanding that what I say, I can’t promise to be foolproof, but if there’s at least one thing I’m confident about, it’s that you should back up your work. Often.


I don’t mean just hitting the “Save” button a lot. I’m talking, have more than one thumb drive. Have a main thumb drive where you save your work daily, but copy it onto another drive (or two) at least once a week (some will wait a month or so before doing this: it all depends on how paranoid you allow yourself to get). Keep the other thumb drive(s) in a different, secure location where you won’t forget where you put them either. There have been those who only realized this in hindsight, after they lost their thumb drive, or had everything saved on their computer’s hard drive and the thing suddenly crashed on them one day. I wouldn’t even trust the Cloud to back up your files. Everything can crash at the worst possible moments.


My entire life’s work was saved on one drive. I didn’t save to my computer or a “Cloud,” either because I’m old-school, or I fear hackers. I did know to back it up, but I only did so every six months. My main thumb drive is kept in a small, velcro-sealed pouch in the front of my teacher’s bag. The drive has nearly ten years’ worth of my lesson plans, created tests, quizzes, class activities, substitute teacher plans, and of course, my own manuscripts. Wherever I go, this teacher’s bag goes with me, even though I’m no longer teaching, and therefore so does my thumb drive.


It just so happened on one day that I threw my bag in the trunk of my car after work instead of in the passenger seat, because my wife was at a meeting and needed me to taxi our kids to their after-school activities (we have five kids, so I needed the seat room). The next morning I had taken the day off to prepare for my graduation from grad school. I had some time, so I thought I’d do some writing, but my thumb drive was not in that little pouch where I put it at the end of every day.


The stopping of the heart happened immediately, but I stayed calm and checked other compartments, checked the pockets of the pants I wore the day before. I remembered putting my bag in the trunk of my car so I checked there but found nothing. Then I decided that the logical solution was that I left it in the USB port of my work laptop, which I had left in my classroom. Being a Friday, I had no ability to wait an entire weekend to put my mind at ease, so I drove to work, barged in the middle of my own 2nd period class, where my 8th graders and my sub turned to me with deer-in-headlight eyes. I said nothing and went straight to the laptop. No thumb drive.


Next, I got down on all fours and searched the area surrounding my desk. The sub was still up by the chalkboard, not knowing what to say, and my students still had their attention on me. I felt compelled to inform everyone to carry on, and that I just stopped by to get something I forgot. The sub nervously continued giving the instructions I left for her to my students, but the students continued to watch me. I can’t say that I blame them, because I had gotten off the floor and started shuffling their submitted essays into a mess on my desk while searching. Then I began to open my desk drawers more feverishly, literally tossing items behind me and slamming the drawers shut before going to the next one. The probably look of panic on my face probably did not help the sub retain the attention of my students. I snapped with much irritability, “Get back to work!” then stormed out of classroom


I swore every obscenity known to the English language while physically abusing my steering wheel on my way back home. As I said, I backed up my work every now and then, but it had been about three months since I’d last done so. Three months of work for me was a hell of a lot. Especially since I’d worked on my manuscript almost every night. Realizing this, my ranting rich with swear words became directed at myself for being so stupid.


I pulled into my driveway, a complete mess. I got out of the car and decided to check the trunk one more time, just for the hell of it. Just as before, the trunk was empty, but I happened to notice the little slot with which to put your fingers in order to lift the carpeted panel of the trunk floor in order to access the spare tire. Raising an eyebrow, I lifted the panel, finding my thumb drive resting devilishly, as if it had hands to cover a mouth to keep from bursting out and laughing at me, up against the freaking spare tire. Right there and then, I snatched the tiny thing up, clasped it tightly in my hand, pulling it close to my chest, and collapsed into the fetal position in my driveway, crying out sobs of relief as I referred to the thumb drive over and over as “my precious.” Glad it was a work day for the rest of my neighbors.

So I now happen to be among the paranoid. I have three thumb drives. The main one still snug in the front pouch of my bag. The other two in separate locations in my house. And I copy from my main one to the other two at least once a week. If you are a writer or hold any job that requires you to save or maintain a lot of files, I suggest you stick to your preferred method of backing up your data religiously.

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