How to Prevent Every Writer’s Worst Nightmare: Losing Your Work

“Gone. ALL of it. Gone. Every old idea I ever jotted down. Gone. Every short story, script, chapters of multiple books. Gone. An entire universe of superhero ideas. Poems, short stories… gone. I have NO IDEA how it happened. None. I can reason out how I may have lost some things, but most everything was so redundantly copied in various places. Yet somehow, it is all gone.”

This is every writer’s worst nightmare.

Losing writing isn’t new

Saving our words from annihilation has been a problem that’s long plagued writers, even before computers made our writing lives so much easier (yet simultaneously more complex).

In 1922, Hemingway’s first wife, Hadley, lost his works-in-progress and his carbon copies when they were stolen during a train ride to Switzerland. Hemingway recounts the horror in A Moveable Feast: “I was sure she could not have brought the carbons too….It was true alright and I remember what I did in the night after I let myself into the flat and found it was true.”

If Hemingway had written on a computer instead of a typewriter, maybe he wouldn’t have lost those pages. Then again, if you’ve ever lost your words due to a bad hard drive, a power outage or a Microsoft Word error, you know that’s not true.

In fact, even one of the most technologically sophisticated companies of our day almost lost an entire movie because, unbeknownst to them, their backups had been failing for a month prior to a major incident. Had a supervising technical director not had the only extra copy of the entire film on a hard drive at home, Toy Story 2 may have been completely erased.

In other words, whether you write on paper or with a keyboard, the specter of losing your work is always lurking just behind your shoulder.

So, let’s kill the ghosts of future lost words.

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