I learned a valuable lesson about being a writer this week when my house was robbed. BACK UP I hear you scream. Everyone knows how important it is to back up these days ― especially writers! I can just see the eyes rolling. And you’d be right. Any writer worth their salt understands the vital importance of backing up their work. I do as well! At least, I thought I did. Every week I save my work in progress on an external hard drive and a USB. Sometimes I even email it to myself. But I was on a roll this week. When I’m in the zone I think of little else. Words weren’t just flowing, they were spurting out almost faster than I could type them. It was a beautiful (and rare) thing. I had powered out just over fifteen thousand words in three days. And I hadn’t backed up, it wasn’t the day I routinely did it. I kept thinking about it. I just didn’t do it. See, every time I opened my laptop, the manuscript was there staring at me, the narrative drawing me in to its depths, mesmerising in its intensity. It was like some force greater than me engaged my brain and possessed my fingers as soon as the screen lit up ― it controlled me. And I let it, nay, welcomed it, encouraged, got lost in it. At least until I was unwillingly dragged away from the computer by some pointless distraction pertaining to real life, at which time I slammed the laptop shut to attend to such trivialities as meals, pets, people and/or bathroom breaks. I just didn’t back up.
Did your stomach drop? Your heart beat a little faster? Are you wide-eyed, thinking Oh My God, just imagine? What would I do? Are you having a little empathy panic?
When I walked into my house that day and realised that we’d been broken into, those moments of sheer terror were the worst of my writing career to date! Matched in part only by the discovery that my iPhone had been stolen.
Had it been the case that the burglars stole my laptop, a heart attack was inevitable, discarding the manuscript premise probable, and surrendering any further writing aspirations definitely possible. In those moments when I thought it was all gone, the entirety my writing career flashed before my eyes (the whole one and a half novels). It was over.
By some incredible stroke of luck (or it could have been my housemate disturbing the robbery in progress), the robbers didn’t make it into the study ― my writing sanctuary. My laptop lay where I’d left it, untouched. Manuscript intact.
I backed up my novel.