It’s one of the worst things that can happen to a writer. You write and you write and you write. Then you edit. You put shape on what you’ve written. You re-write parts. Re-jig parts. Excise parts. Add bits in. You save everything carefully. It is your habit to save at the end of every sentence.
One day, you have over 105,000 ‘clean’ words written. More than one hundred and five thousand words that have been written and edited and scrutinised and re-worked until you are happy with those words. You are pleased with what you have written and you are keen for others to read your words. You start a marketing exercise. You start ‘admitting’ that you have written a book. Then, you realise that you are proud of the fact that you have written a book and need very little encouragement to talk about it. People – even people in the media – are interested in reading your book. You have started to approach agents with a view to getting published. You even have a celebrity lined up to launch your book when that fateful day comes around.
Then the unthinkable happens. You lose it all.
That is exactly what happened to me three weeks ago last Tuesday. My Mac exploded. I turned it on that Tuesday, read a few emails and sent a few emails. Then I dropped the kids to school. By the time I got back in front of the Mac, about two hours had elapsed. I was surprised to see that the screen was black and the power was off. Similar to what happens when there is a power cut. Except there hadn’t been a power cut.
Puzzled, I turned the computer back on. There was a smell of burning and a glowing in the back of the machine. Even I – with my limited technical knowledge – knew this was not good.
I made a few calls and found The PC Guys. They took my machine in and a day later it was ready to pick up. Jas had taken the hard-drive out of my Mac and put it in a caddy. Delighted, I took it home and plugged it in (a friend had generously loaned me her spare desk-top). Of course, I plugged it into a PC, so it didn’t work. It took a few days and a few phone calls, but I tracked down another Mac to run it through.
An hour’s drive away, my friend Dee had a Mac that she generously allowed me to run my hard-drive through. My idea was to find my book and email it to myself. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.
Unwilling to give up on a work I had started three years ago, I got in touch with another friend whom I knew also had a Mac. Very kindly, she called into me on Saturday last. I plugged the external drive in again and crossed my fingers. No joy.
Fortunately, my brother – who is a bit of an IT wizard – was staying with me that weekend. He made a clone of my hard drive and took it home to the Netherlands with him. He offered to try and recover data from it when he had a moment.
In the meantime, Jas at The PC Guys, offered to take another look at the hard drive for me. It showed up on his laptop (a Mac), but with an error message. He held on to it for a few days, but was unable to recover any data. His advice was to approach Ontrack Data Recovery. They are the absolute finest when it comes to data recovery, apparently, and their prices reflect that. To get the hard drive looked at in the first place would cost €95. Thereafter, recover of data would cost me anywhere from €589 to €1,200.
Yet another friend has a friend who also does data recovery. This wonderful man – Enda from Arona – offered to take a look at the hard drive for me. He doesn’t normally work on a Saturday, but he met me yesterday and took the caddy from me, with the caveat that he doesn’t normally work on Macs, so he wasn’t promising to recover anything for me. He did promise, however, to do his best and that if he didn’t think he could help, he wouldn’t ‘go fiddling’ and that he certainly wouldn’t do any more damage than was already done.
I am seriously crossing my fingers that either Enda or my brother can recover my data. In case they can’t there is always Ontrack as a last resort. As soon as I figure out which of my kidneys to sell.
The biggest torment for me is that not that I have lost nearly every word I have written, and nearly every picture I have taken of my kids in the past four years. No. The biggest torment for me is that the whole thing was completely avoidable. Back up. That’s all I needed to do. And I didn’t do it. You don’t need to be technically savvy to effectively back up your work. Emailing yourself to a gmail or hotmail or yahoo account will do it for you. Then, your work is on their server and accessible from anywhere.
Thumb-drives are an effective way of backing data up as well. Then, there are other, more sophisticated ways – burning stuff to DVDs, for example. Or converting everything to a Google doc. You see? It’s not hard and I do know how. I just never did. I thought my hard drive was invincible – not least because it was a Mac – and I was wrong. Boy! Was I wrong.
I would like my tale of woe to be a tale of caution for you. Back up your work. Please. Constantly. At the end of every chunk or session or paragraph – whatever works best for you. Just do it. Save yourself the angst and the trauma and the expense. Save yourself from the terrible fate of losing years of work. Save yourself from the writer’s worse nightmare.