Early in my academic stint I instilled it into myself to back up my files. I always thought I understood the importance of this, and I always saved my work before walking away from the computer. But it wasn’t until late one evening, after I had been working at the kitchen table for hours, the sun had long set, and one of my first papers was finally getting to the point where I felt I had something worthwhile. That I realized I had not taken this seriously enough.
Because it was then that my computer decided it was going to update itself. Without a hint of warning. Ok, well maybe it had warned me several times and I kept delaying the update, but I had no idea it was going to simply ignore me and do it itself. In that moment when my screen turned blue that I realized I had not yet saved my paper and all was lost. I may have swore, cried, and berated myself for not following my own inclination and backing up my work. I wish I could say this was the only time this happened, but it happened a few times after. However, I never lost an entire paper again, instead I lost the most recent round of edits, or the last paragraph: much easier to recover than an entire paper.
It sounds quite dramatic, and for me, in that moment, it was. Though, looking back it was only a 500-word paper; at the time though, when I was trying to remember how to compare poems, write papers, and get myself back into school, it seemed like an immense loss.
Most recently, this weekend, I rediscovered my complex, love-hate, relationship with technology. I have lost articles for The Voice, and parts of other papers, but it had been a long time since I lost an entire, long, project: and the article I recovered. This long-weekend I was critiquing a fellow-writer’s manuscript. I had put it onto my tablet and littered it with comments as I worked my way through the book. Commenting on how it was making me feel, areas that needed fleshing out, or areas that could be cut. I had been diligently saving my work every few pages so as not the lose the all-important first-impression comments on this work. But, I didn’t back it up beyond that.
I had reached page 212 out of 311; I had hit my goal for the day and hit save, ready to close it out and move onto my own writing for a couple hours. When my thumb bumped a button and everything disappeared. I was left with a table and no words. I panicked. It was gone, all gone. And I had been so good about saving it but nothing I did, closing it out, going to an older version, nothing worked. I am not exceptionally technologically savvy and to some this may have been a quick fix, but, to me, it was disaster. It reiterated how important it was to have a back up file. To keep work saved not only on one piece of technology but several. I email copies of my personal manuscript to myself, my mom, and save it onto a USB, there is no losing it. But I hadn’t done this with the work I was putting into this other manuscript because I felt it was safe on my tablet: or perhaps I just didn’t think about it.
Backing up papers, manuscripts, articles, or class notes is important. Computers and technology can be fickle creatures; especially with those of us who don’t thoroughly understand their inner workings. If nothing else, having this information backed up will mean that if your computer ever crashes, as they do, or decide they’ve grown impatient with your lack of updating them, you will not lose all your information. You will not lose all of your work. You may lose some, an hour, or two, but not all. I am grateful that I was able to recover the lost pages of the manuscript I was critiquing, though I am still unsure of what happened. I spent many hours worrying about it, and trying to fix it. Hours I could have spent continuing on with the critique or working on my own manuscript. Save yourself the headache, if it is as simple as periodically emailing yourself a copy, or backing up to a USB, do. The feeling of my stomach sinking through my legs and out my feet is one I won’t soon forget.
Deanna Roney is an AU student who loves adventure in life and literature