What is that sound? Why, it’s the sound of backing up! Backing up, you say? Why yes, backing up your files, of course!
I have been extremely lucky with all of my computering. Only once, well over ten years ago did I lose anything significant in the writing department. It was a chapter of a novel I was working on (a project long abandoned) that I saved to a bad disk. Remember disks?
I remember the crushing realization that my baby was gone, gone forever. I also remember spending an ungodly amount of time trying to reconstruct the genius of my chapter from memory. I gave up eventually, disheartened by what I felt was the vast inferiority of my second attempt. I don’t recall if that had anything to do with why I gave up on the manuscript all together, but I did.
I got a fresh reminder of that last week.
Not only am I not technologically advanced, I don’t pretend to be. I have a Gateway laptop that is two or three years old. You know that little bar when you click on My Computer and it shows you how much of your computer’s memory you are using? Mine is about a quarter of an inch long. I check Facebook, check email and hook up my camera to my computer. That is all. Word, lovely Word, rules all on this PC. So you can imagine my devastation last week when I was working away on my manuscript edit and Word just froze, just inexplicably froze like a cup of coffee in the high Arctic. I wasn’t mad, just annoyed. I couldn’t even Ctrl+Alt+Del my way out of the problem so I shut it down with the power button in a harumph.
Little PC fired right up and helpfully informed me it had not shut down properly, (no kidding!) and I started it in normal mode. All was well. Since I am a saving ninja, I was not worried about a loss of work, plus I have Autosave set to back up my files every ten minutes. Everything loaded up normally and I opened Word. You know if your computer takes a crap on you and you open up Word, it shows the Autosaved versions of everything you had open so you can choose what version you want to keep? Yeah, that didn’t happen. I opened my last saved version of the file and about a page and a half of awesome revisions were missing. In the end I lost about a page and a half of work, so I’m not going to bemoan this, but I am going to tell you some things that I learned from this experience.
1. Do not trust Word’s Autosave. I went back through the Autosave files and found the last Autosave had occurred at 10:17 am. Word froze at 3:30pm. I double checked my Autosave settings, yep, every ten minutes.
2. Save your work, yourself, every half hour to more than one location. The only thing that prevented this from being a bloody tragedy was this exact habit that I have maintained for years. Don’t trust your computer to do it for you. Your computer is a useful tool, but it cannot be trusted.
3. Save everything meaningful to you in more than one place. Every half hour I save my work to my computer’s hard drive and to a usb stick thing (that’s the technical term) but that will not help me if my house burns to the ground, so after I complete a chapter, I email my entire manuscript to myself. The most I can lose of my work in progress is one chapter.
4. Consider an online data backer-upper. This is my next step. My husband just suffered a catastrophic meltdown of his iMac (they are not immune) and now I am convinced. I am currently weighing my options, but I am definitely going to get something like justcloud.com or mypcbackup.com. If anyone has any experience with any of these services, please comment!
My life’s work is well worth the fee, so is yours.
What is the best education for a writer to have? Do writers need any special education at all? Can writing even be taught? I think all writers ponder these questions to some extent, some more than others, myself more lately. I have been writing since I was mentally and physically able to do so. I’m not saying those early efforts about my cat Fluffy were all that great, but a story is a story, after all.
This morning I was reading an old Maclean’s magazine, because that’s how cool I am. There were profiles in it of notable Canadians talking about their formative university experiences. What struck me the most was that in almost every case the person’s degree, or at least their first degree, had little or nothing to do with what now makes them so notable. That said, all of them stressed how important they considered the experience of that education to be, and how a degree in almost any field can teach far more than the subject name that heads it.
I consider myself a ‘natural’ writer in the sense that I have felt the need to craft stories from words my entire life. The creative process is not something I have to work at, it just comes, inexplicably and wonderfully of its own accord. Making my writing better is a different story. I have always tried to learn as much about writing as I can through books, newsletters, the London Writers Society, critique groups and writing friends. About ten years ago I took a course through Long Ridge Writers Group that really introduced me to the business side of writing, which was something I definitely needed to learn about.
I ask these questions because I don’t know the answers. I had lunch with a friend of mine a while ago, a guy who has a PhD in something writing related that I can’t even remember. For some reason we were talking about university. I have a degree in history, but when I applied to grad school, they lost my application. That’s a story in itself, but I was saying that one day I might want to go back to grad school. My friend asked me for what and I told him history, of course! That seemed to surprise him and he suggested I take something writing related.
For some reason I was taken aback by this prospect. I told him no way, it would be for history if I ever went back. I love history, I love the stories, the information, the research, the bearing on the world today and of course, the writing. I have absolutely no desire to pursue a degree in writing. I like courses in writing, classes, books, tutorials, but I actually get a weird, icky feeling when I think of obtaining a writing degree. I’ve thought about this a lot trying to understand why. I’m a life-long learner, so that’s not the problem. I’m always trying to improve my writing anyway, so I see the value in it and am not afraid of the prospect. I think it’s the technical aspects of it all. All writers use the technical aspects of writing, obviously, and good ones are always trying to improve on them, but there is a magic to writing that I just don’t want to analyze. I don’t want to strip it down and tear it apart, I don’t want it to be a formula. I want my writing to stay there, up in the air in a wonderful, magical place of imagination smashed into words. I want the stories to keep flowing out of me like a broken faucet, no explanation necessary.
I guess the best education for a writer is writing, reading, and life. Must be the romantic in me.
Yesterday I went to Shock Stock with my husband and some friends. The official tagline for this festival is “Subculture weekend celebration and VHS tape swap.” I don’t know too much about any of that, but they have some pretty cool stuff there, stuff I’ve never seen anywhere else and a lot of people I know and like attend. I’m not too sure what that says about me, but it doesn’t really matter.
I like scary movies, especially old ones. Creepy silent movies, or old monster movies like Creature from the Black Lagoon, King Kong and Invasion of the Body Snatchers type of thing. We went to the convention hall in the late afternoon and it was pretty busy. There was a lot that focused on gore, which doesn’t interest me, but lots of other things as well. Memorabilia, clothing, tonnes of movies on every format imaginable and even movie producers and actors you could talk too. We had a lot of fun wandering the booths, looking at cheesy B movies and pretty creepy movie props and saw an inordinate amount of people we know – like attracts like, I guess.
I wasn’t able to attend last year because of a timing miscommunication, but Jeremy brought me back a pretty cool Phantom of the Opera poster, I’m talking original, Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera.
This is what piqued my interest, so as I perused the wares, I kept my eyes open for the movie poster guy, as Jeremy so helpfully labelled him. I found said movie poster guy all tucked away in a corner. He had everything. When I expressed an interest in old horror movies, he beckoned me to a table and put four or five big, thick portfolios in front of me. I spent most of my Shock Stock experience perusing said folios and decided to pick four and leave it at that, otherwise I would never get out of there. It wasn’t easy.
These are the four I ended up taking home with me, but I could have bought more and these weren’t even necessarily the best, but there is something I really like about each of them. I like all of the movies, but the first two are in French, which I love and I really like the border on The Raven poster. The Phantom of the Opera one is actually kind of silly, but I like the lettering and the red cloak. I think they will look nice with the Hunchback of Notre Dame one I already have, so now I have to go hunt down some frames. The days are numbered for the few pieces of dollar store wall art I still have kicking around.
I bought a few other things as well, including a book by a new novelist, but I was most excited about the posters, this may turn into a thing with me. The movie poster guy doesn’t have a website, oddly enough, but he gave me his email and told me to let him know what I’m looking for and he can get me the goods. Sounds delightfully sinister, doesn’t it?