Move it or Lose it –by Sheila Englehart

fire damage

Right now. Be honest. Exactly where are your treasured works saved? Desk drawer? Pen holder? Coffee mug? Decorative wooden box? External hard drive on the desk next to your computer?

I know that you’ve read many articles about the importance of back-ups and where to store them, but did you take action?

A storm just ripped through my neighborhood. Trees tore through power lines, blocked roads, and demolished homes. As I watched the 80 foot trees behind my house part like blades of grass, my first thought wasn’t getting to the basement for safety. No.

Is my backup in the safe? If a tornado takes my house, where would the safe land?

Thirteen years ago I lost everything in an apartment fire. Every word I’d written – a life’s work. Possessions can be replaced by insurance, if you have it. But insurance does not cover intellectual property. Nothing will bring back your treasured words.

The owner of the apartment complex had not allowed the fire department access to the property for hydrant inspection in years. Two were rusted shut. The one that did open had no water. The defense attorney said to me, “If you were a seasoned writer, you would have protected your work.” Then she went on to expound on how, since I had yet to make an actual sale, my work was no more valuable than the paper on which it was written. The heat of her words burned hotter than the fire.

Before that I had kept back-ups offsite, usually at my day job. When I was downsized, I brought my back-ups home. I was three weeks from moving to a better place when that fire happened. It wasn’t as if I didn’t know any better, but that small window of letting my guard down proved fatal.

I didn’t just lose years of precious work. I lost my identity with it. Was I really a writer if I had not hit the big time? Was I fooling myself all those years thinking I could ever be published? Was this a sign that I was nothing more than a dreamer whose messy notebooks would someday bring my sanity into question? With my many starts and stops for re-evaluation, I lost six years of productivity, during which I might have produced great work.

Until that storm, I had been content with the use of a portable safe. Now I’m rethinking its location, and whether a good storm might fling it into the next county. It’s not enough just to do the back-ups. It must be secured away from you.

I can’t shout this loud enough: Protect your files offsite!

If you trust technology, find a recommended digital cloud. I know a couple people who love this option. Old school like me? Bank box, coffee can in Uncle Karl’s backyard, or safe cemented in the floor. Because whether you misplace your flash drive in a move, lose your house to nature or accident, or your “first love” to a jealous ex, you’d better be prepared.

Masterpiece or moth-eaten notes, gone is Gone.

Now, where are your files stored?

If your life’s work is in any of the places in the first paragraph, take action. Move it.


Sheila Englehart is the author of Warning Signs, published by Second Wind Publishing


Filed under How To, writing

12 responses to “Move it or Lose it –by Sheila Englehart

  1. In 2002 an addict broke into the secured building where I worked. While we were downstairs talking to the police about the door he smashed, he was up on the 3rd floor burglarizing my office. He took the backpack in which I carried a digital camera full of family photos I had not downloaded and a box of diskettes (on which in those days I stored my work). I never got anything in that bag back. I thought that bag also contained the handwritten beginning to a novel I had been working on and was about halfway through with. Several days later I found that notebook at home and remembered having taken it out of the backpack the night before it was stolen. I don’t think I would have gone back and rewritten that novel if the manuscript had disappeared. In the long run, that particular book became the source of my introduction to a number of wonderful writers, many of whom became the first group of Second Wind authors. If I hadn’t accidentally left that notebook out of my backpack, our publishing company probably never would have been. So, yes–by all means–protect your work. And defense attorneys aside, your manuscripts–published or not–are valuable and indeed irreplaceable.

    • So glad you found your notebook. I had a couple friends who still had copies of a couple works I’d done. I know attorneys say whatever it takes to get the best for their client, but I was close to pulling her skinny little butt across the conference table. (That would not have helped my case.) My attorney got a publishing “expert” to reconstruct how many hours it would take to reproduce the work I lost (manuscripts only) to calculate a dollar amount for the proposed settlement. It wasn’t a great deal, but more than the 5K the insurance company offered.

  2. Thanks for a needed reminder of something I knew needed to be done but have neglected.

  3. What a heartending story! I’m so sorry you had to deal with all that.

    A moving company once destroyed most of what I owned, and I never did get a settlement. Now, I’m not sure I’d care. I have too much stuff anyway for someone who wants to live a simple life. I do email updates to my WIP online, though.

    • I didn’t mourn replaceable stuff, but my photos, writing, and handmade ornaments that my grandmother (who passed 2 days before that fire) made for me, I mourned. And it’s amazing how fast you can accumulate more stuff if you allow it. I learned what I could live without – a lot.

      Sheila Englehart

  4. dellanioakes

    Sheila, I am so sorry you lost so much of yourself. I’ve lost a story or two here and there, but never everything I’ve written. This is good advice and I WILL follow it. I’m not quite sure how, but I’m open to advice.

    • I have a portable safe right now with an external hard drive I keep in it. But I’m going to also try a cloud like Carbonite or Dropbox. An indie writer suggested Spideroak too. I’m just paranoid about my data being on someone else’s machine. I’m old school, and prefer not to rely on someone else to maintain equipment or keep the business going. So cover your bases with a hard drive or flash drive offsite and a cloud. You never know!

      Sheila Englehart

  5. Also, the attorney said to me, “It isn’t personal.”
    To which I replied, “Not to you.”
    Our work, however fictional or for hire is personal because it begins with a person!

  6. Pingback: Move It Or Lose It! Back Up Your Files | Bertram's Blog

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