You’d think I’d have learned my lesson. The last time it happened, I had “a feeling” a few hours beforehand and backed everything up to a thumb drive—except my photos. I lost four years of my girls’ childhood. Not many months later, I woke early with the same feeling and hopped out of bed to grab a thumb drive and hurry downstairs. Too late, that second time. I lost all the remaining digital photographs of my kids, dating back to when we bought our first digital camera when my youngest was six months old. I have no photos of Kayla from age six months through the time she started school. Two crashed hard drives and years of visual memories are completely gone.
That second time, I wept.
And now it happens to me again, with no warning, no “feeling” to presage digital disaster. I did back everything up—including photos—just a couple of months ago, before taking my laptop in for service, but I haven’t backed up since.
- Gone: the NaNoWriMo manuscript
- Gone: All new writing from the past few months (which isn’t saying a lot—but I’ve written more in the last three weeks than I had for six months or more prior)
- Gone: materials developed for but not yet posted in my online thesis class
- Gone: my household budget spreadsheets for the next six months
This time, the hard drive crashed near the conclusion of a big editing project. I was in the process of transferring my proofreader’s corrections to my master copy, but I lost only a few hours’ work and not a few weeks’ worth. Though I hadn’t backed up my own stuff, I had backed up my client’s work.
When I learned the drive was a total loss, I texted my sister-in-law, who is also a writer. She replied, “So, are you okay? I would have a good angry. Ty.”
Then 30 seconds later: “Cry”
I haven’t had a cry at all, haven’t wanted to, but then I do keep my emotions well buried much of the time. Even as I drove home from the Apple store, I felt I’d dodged a bullet. I lost a manuscript assembled out of drafts and essays still wedged here and there on thumb drives around my bedroom and study. I didn’t lose my power to think and to articulate. I didn’t lose a job or a home or child or parent or my husband. The loss of 5,000 or 8,000 words of new writing is far from a fatal error.
Perhaps I have finally, finally learned my lesson. I’ve installed a router that backs my work up wirelessly every hour and will store 2 terabytes worth of data. (Uh, what the heck is a terabyte?)
The blank hard drive on the barren laptop before me feels kind of good. I’ve chosen as my new desktop wallpaper a blue sky with whisps of white clouds and a white crescent moon visible through the clouds. A small handful of folders and docs are hung on those clouds, and I know the content of each and every one of them.
The file I’m working on today holds this coming week’s guidance for my thesis students, to be posted online tomorrow—essentially, I’ve written a blog post focused on our topic for the week: the writing workshop. I’d drafted the first bits of the thesis guidance last week, but instead of trying to remember and reconstruct, I started from scratch. Wrote something brand new. And it’s good.
Perhaps I’m in denial, but this loss seems small. I still have hundreds of pages of drafts on those thumb drives. I still have the urge to put fingers to keyboard. This coming Wednesday night my best friend of thirty years is coming to see the girls’ Christmas Concert, and on Thursday my eldest flies home for Christmas Break. The tree is up, and the shopping is done. Our furnace works. The fridge is full.
My imagination and memory are wide and deep. I am fifty-one years old. I’ve got more than enough new material—so much left to write and not enough weeks and months and years left to write it all.