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What to do when backups fail

When Backups Fail

by Joey on June 30, 2010

Post image for When Backups Fail

I interviewed Marcia Layton Turner, an accomplished magazine writer, book writer, co-writer, ghostwriter and founder of the Association of Ghostwriters this past  Monday. The 23 minute mp3 file took about an hour to transcribe. I spent another hour fact-checking and searching for some tasty links to cross-reference choice bits of the interview. Tuesday, I spent an hour reworking the document and turning some questions and answers into a narrative paragraph that set up the piece quite nicely.  Today, Wednesday, about 45 minutes ago, I was just about to log on to ghostwritepro.com to post my piece, when the screen on my 2005 iBook G4 mac froze.

This happened a few months ago, so I did what I did before: I rebooted…

…into the dreaded “blue screen of death”. I’d never seen the BSoD on a mac before. My desktop PC gets it once in a blue moon (that would be funny if I wasn’t happening to me), but I make backups so frequently on my PC that I never lose more than a week’s worth of work and anything really important gets backed up onto my flash drive as I’m working on it. I back up the mac once a week, too, but I wasn’t backing up the article or even my original transcription anywhere. I’m not sure why. Probably because I knew I’d have it started and done in three days time. I have the mp3 of the interview on a flash drive backup, but that doesn’t help me now when I’m supposed to be posting my blog post.

Fortunately, I write my posts into Wordpress, so it’s backed up online.

Wouldn’t you know it, every post I’ve written prior to today has been written online. But the window Wordpress gives you to write in is annoyingly small and because the interview with Marcia comes in at 1200 words (should I say, “came in”?), I wanted to see the words in all their full-screen glory. So I wrote it on Word and saved it to the mac….which now looks like ‘made and canceled’… as I stare at those three little letters in sorrow.

Clearly, that interview isn’t gonna be here today, but I will (God willing) post it next week. You’ll like it.

I have to wonder though. Should I have been backing up that Word file onto my flash drive? That would have given me the backup I wish I had right now, but come on, am I really expected to save my work in two separate files? Do you know how tedious that is? (I bet there’s an app that will do that very thing, save your files in two places at the same time). Well, in any case, the failure of my hard drive has produced a backup post out of thin air. It could be worse.

Let’s backup a bit…

No. Really.

Let’s go back to that interview you recorded with that one client. You remember:  the one where you were taking notes, but not as many notes as usual because a) you had a recorder with plenty of  power capturing all the nuances you sometimes miss at the time and b) you wanted to get better at really listening when you’re doing an interview, maybe as much as when you’re not writing it down or guiding the conversation.

Now you’re back at the office.You’re eager to dive into the recording  (or send it  to your transcriber), only to find nothing. You double checked everything before you hit ‘record’, but something went wrong.

If you’ve been studying hard all semester, reading your books, digging into your extra credit opportunities, then one C-grade won’t kill your GPA. Same holds true here. The second you realize there’s nothing on that recording, you write down every phrase, concept or question you can follow up on later with your client. Do you tell the client the recording is toast? I wouldn’t bring it up, if that’s what you mean. After writing down what I remember from the interview, I’d make a comprehensive list of all the questions I asked that weren’t on my prepared question list. Because it’s always easier to remember what I  talked about more than what the client talked about, I’m in good shape. Over the next couple interviews, I’ll be looking for the right time to work in those same questions, but slightly reworded or maybe bending the client in a different direction.

What I learned from today’s post

(1) No matter how fast you can write, technology can fail faster.
(2) When you’ve done your best and something goes wrong, find something worth saving and turn it into something you can use.
(3) Consider writing on paper or using the typewriter more often. No backups required.

 

 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Collins July 1, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Well done. You’ve transformed a worst nightmare scenario into a gilt-edged dream. Well, almost, although I did feel for you and all the work you’d put into the project. Have you ever noticed how much better the second attempt can turn out too – just thought I’d sprinkle some extra sugar on the deal?

In 1988 I was writing a book on a DOS based machine. I had 35,000 words completed and no backup because the five-and-a-half inch floppy was a bit dodgy. I’d been drinking – quite a lot actually – and as I closed down I accidently hit the delete button. In those days there were no life-saving “Are you sure you want to do this really stupid thing?” dialogue boxes to pop up. In one half-pissed click I sent all my work into the great hole in the sky. Now that really upset me.

Looking forward to seeing your post next week :)

Joey July 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

Thank you for your comment, Michael.

Loved the DOS story. The way you tell it is funny, sad and well….I feel your pain, obviously.

Always a pleasure to have you drop by. I’m gonna have to make it a priority to spend more time on your site! :)

Sam July 8, 2014 at 5:43 am

Google Drive (Google Docs) saves writers’ sanities. I back up all of my work on there and recently I’ve been writing nearly everything with it. Every time you change anything it automatically saves to the cloud without prompting so you can get it anywhere, on any machine with a browser and an internet connection. It works offline too and syncs when you connect.

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