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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ideas Lost and Found by Andy Scheer

This morning I spent a half-hour searching the house for a scrap of paper. I had plenty more like it—discarded sheets from a page-a-day calendar. What made this paper valuable was what I'd scribbled on the back.

Most Saturday nights I scratch my head about what topic I'll address in my next blog. Then it happens. An idea springs to mind. I grab a sheet from my stack of Dilbert calendar pages and jot that idea—and the supporting elements that follow the inspiration.

With the ideas captured, I can go to sleep, secure in the knowledge I have a point of entry to a topic. I know from experience that over the next two days, more elements will fall into place and I'll be ready to sit at the keyboard Monday morning.

But everything hinges on that 4½ x 5½ scrap of paper. This morning it went missing. I looked everywhere—twice. Nothing.

I remembered the basics of what I wanted to write. But some key observations had vanished. Should I still pursue the topic—knowing it would never be quite what I had envisioned? Or, because I wasn't writing to an assigned topic, should I simply shift gears?

This morning I got a third option. I found the paper—in plain sight on my desk. But the incident gave me a new topic: what do you do when a key piece of work disappears?

I know all about backing up computer files. But a colleague recently had his computer crash—and multiple conversations with tech experts revealed the online backup system hadn't been set up correctly. This past weekend my 8GB flash drive failed; all the backup files on it disappeared. I've enjoyed times of amazing writing productivity—followed by some glitch that trashed the last five, ten, or fifteen minutes of inspiration.

No matter how good you think your backup systems, eventually some treasure will vanish from beneath your fingertips. When that happens, how do you move forward?

5 comments:

Timothy Fish said...

I keep backups on flash drives in between backups to CD and to a portable harddrive, but I too have lost stuff. It is a hard thing, but my experience has been that what I write when I am forced into a recovery situation is better than what I wrote the first time around. I would prove that to you, but I don't have what I wrote the first time to show you.

Rick Barry said...

We've all been there, haven't we? The securest method of safeguarding docs I've found is Dropbox. Located offsite, somewhere up in the clouds, I can access my Dropbox docs from work, from home, or from my laptop, as long as an Internet connection is available. Yes, I still jot notes on napkins and other scraps, but as soon as possible I add those to one of my Dropbox files for safer keeping. (But I still keep a recent copy of my current m.s. on my home drive lest some evil hacker find a way to zap Dropbox some day!)

Diana said...

I usually re commit myself to more determined efforts. Pray and search.
Much like you Andy, I lost my new password to my gmail account the other day. It was scribbled on the back of a Six Word Memoir cube style page a day calendar. Panic, prayer and walking away to look again latter finally produced it. Whew!

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I hope to invest in one of those external hard drives someday. My only backup is emailing stuff to my Gmail (or agent or crit partners!). Although I do like to printout a hard copy of my books, when they're finished. But I think that goes through more than one printer cartridge. Glad you found your note!

~sharyn said...

I currently use Mozy as an offsite backup. But I also will email important stuff to myself &, often, friends. Another benefit of emailing it to myself is I can edit it from other computers, if necessary.

Not long ago, I opened a chapter file for a forgotten WIP & soon realized it wasn't the most recent version, but it was the one I'd saved to my new laptop last year. Fortunately, I went back through my email & found I had sent the rewrite to myself. Phew!