I never knew how much random writing advice I had stored up in my brain until I started blogging. Now it seems like I have another little chunk of other people's wisdom to throw out at you all every week. This week's nugget: BACK UP EVERYTHING!!!
If you follow me on twitter, you'll know that the last few weeks have been a bit difficult for me on the technology front. One night my little netbook computer (which I've been using for more and more for my daily computing needs since we moved as my desktop is upstairs and thus inaccessible while supervising the rugrats during the day) was working just fine, and then the next morning it was dead.
Completely dead. I'd turn it on and it would crash. I'd try starting it up in Safe Mode, and it would crash. I'd select Start Windows Normally and it would still crash. Last Known Good Configuration. Crash. Every option I or anyone else with even a modicum of technological skill who I could get on the phone came up with just ended with a crash a few seconds later. I never even got the blue screen of death. Just that damn "choose your start up mode" screen over and over again.
It was devastating. And very frustrating. I was two steps away from marching that little bastard machine out into a field and smashing it but good with a baseball bat. Except it was holding at least six months of my work hostage. And I don't actually own a baseball bat.
I used to be very good about syncing my netbook and desktop in case of just this situation. I've had so many friends lose their work because the computer died and I always vowed that would never be me. But, as usually happens when constant vigilance is met with minimal disaster, I'd gotten lax about it over the last year or so and couldn't actually remember the last time I'd synced the systems. At least six months ago, probably longer. So I had approximately 15GB of data (I take a lot of pictures) trapped on the hard drive of that little machine and I didn't know what was backed up to the desktop and what wasn't.
(This is also why I haven't blogged in a month. What little time I did have to work while the kids were sleeping was never going to be spent on a blog post. Much to the Idea Salesman's displeasure, blog writing comes behind fiction writing on my priority list.)
I was without a good computing option for almost three weeks. As I've mentioned, my desktop is a little inconvenient during the day and Long-Suffering Husband's tablet just isn't very useful for writing. It's not that I don't think you can write on a tablet. I'm sure there are some people who have no problem tapping out their prose on a touch screen. I'm just not good enough at it for anything longer than an email.
Plus, I ended up having to buy a new machine and pay someone $500 to break the old one open (literally--netbooks, it turns out, aren't really built with hard drive removal in mind) and extract all my data track by track. Then I had to go through it all and compare it to the data on my desktop and manually sync the two sets of files. I still don't know for certain what happened to crash the system. Something to do with bad clusters, whatever that means, and possibly virus scanning software.
So, learn from my mistake. Back up your data. Then back it up again. And again. And again. As often as you can, as securely as you can, in as many places as you can.
Or at least keep a baseball bat and an empty field handy so you can vent your frustration when disaster inevitably strikes.