Every Writer’s Worst Nightmare

Tales of lost manuscripts, files and research are all too common.

The Alamo Drafthouse/Dogfish Head Off Centred Film Festival has just about taken over my life since the beginning of the month. Profound apologies if this one's a bit brief and lacking in beery content. There are some pictures of Thursday night's screening of Blazing Saddles at Republic Square Park with every Austin brewery and a few from out of town (plus DFH of course) on Alamo Drafthouse's Facebook. I wish there were some shots of the beer booths though. At least there's one of all the brewers.

To business.

I'll never forget the first time I experienced a fatal computer crash. It was one of the first PCs I owned; I knew nothing about backing up your files, and at the time there wasn't much more than a 1.4Mb floppy for that sort of thing anyway. One day the PC started slowing down, ground to a halt and then wouldn't boot up, so I had to use the restore disc. Thankfully, all that went down the tubes was a bunch of images, some .wavs and a handful of documents which were inconvenient to lose, but hardly crucial. Let's face it, you can't really fit much on a 1 Gb drive.

Since then I've been very conscientious about backing up anything I don't want to lose, often making more than one copy and never keeping it on the C drive with the operating system. If it's not too big I'll send it to myself as an attachment - I don't see Google's servers and hard drives going anywhere soon. That's the closest I want to get to 'the cloud'. For everything else it's hard drives. Until the massive Japanese earthquake last year the cost of computer storage was ridiculously low. Not so long ago the saying was that you shouldn't pay more than a dollar a gig for hard drives, but only a little more than a year ago I found myself buying a 2 terabyte drive for less than $100.

What's this all got to do with beer? A few days ago I happened across this. Pete Brown is one of the beer writers I follow and I remember reading his blog post last year about the occurrence. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like to lose a laptop, but especially one that has all your writings, and especially one with the book you're currently writing.

Actually, that's not quite true.

While I was at school and studying woodwork (beer is not the only string to my bow) I had to prepare a sort of mini-thesis about the subject: tree growth, timber production, woodworking tools, joints, history of furniture... you get the idea. I spent most of the Christmas break working on it, in longhand and with hand drawn images (there was no interwebz or cut and paste then, it was all pen and paper), and the whole thing was put together in a ring binder. I was so pleased with it. I took it back to school after the holiday, tossed it up on top of a locker with some other bits and pieces, came back a few minutes later... it's gone.

Just like Pete Brown I did a lot of swearing, and it was no fun telling my tutor that I'd done the thing, honest I did, but someone had nicked it. Well, put yourself in his shoes. Would you buy it? It was even less fun spending the next few weeks doing it all over again. And the irony is that a month later the original copy magically reappeared! At least I had some proof to show that I really had done it the first time. I'm not sure if the tutor believed me when I showed it to him.

I can't stress this enough: back up your important data!