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Freelance Writing ComputerWriters are often curious and intrigued by the rituals of other writers. Vladimir Nobokov wrote his novels out on 3X5 index cards and last summer Jonathan Franzen detailed how he physically damages the Internet port on his computer so that he won’t be distracted to surf the web during his writing time. (I had to wonder, was he not working on a wi-fi equipped computer?) The one ritual every writer should be committed to is backing up their work.

In college the dreaded blue screen of death paid a visit and I thought all was lost. Screenplays I had been working on for years, papers for classes, years of compiling “shared” music files, photos…and how can one be a writer when they have nothing to show for it? Fortunately, I found a computer recovery company who transferred my files to a $200 CD. That was 8 years ago. Just over 6 months ago I bought my first external hard drive as a back up system. (Hey, I like to do things in my own time.) As the freelance writing universe would have it, in 2011 I’ve experienced two computer crashes. Downtime? Zero. I just transferred my files over and was back in business.

Your hardware may be great, but anything can happen, like being struck by lightning–literally. Last summer not one–but two writers in my Raleigh-Durham creative writing critique group had their homes struck by lightning.

I hosted a workshop this past weekend, Writing for Magazines and Newspapers 101, and this topic came up. Everyone was sharing their back up tips:

  • external hard drives
  • flash drives for smaller storage
  • Dropbox or other online file storage services
  • Google Docs
  • create an individual email account specifically for back up and email writing projects to yourself
  • create a backup schedule and stick to it
  • rotate your backup methods (keep some on a flash drive in a safety deposit box, others on an external hard drive in a fire-proof safe)

What back up horror stories do you have? As a writer, how often do you back up your computer?