The good news, of course, is that no one was hurt, and virtually everything the burglar took is replaceable.
One exception: On my son’s computer, but never backed up, was one of the greatest documents ever, something he would have cherished all his life. He had meticulously kept a running list of every movie he had ever seen, hundreds and hundreds, with his comments on each.
It’s gone — a reminder of the new reality that computers and Facebook have created, a world in which a document meant to last a lifetime can disappear in an instant, and a photograph meant as an impulsive gloat lives forever.
How precious to us as writers are our documents? They are our lives. The file for Capsule represents about 2 years of work at this point, the various versions of Rust have been shifting from computer to computer with me for close to a decade now. Can any of us imagine if they were gone in an instant? I had a scare with my current computer back when I first got it: the hard drive failed on me. I just barely completed a backup in time before it crapped out and needed to be replaced. To put it bluntly, if there is any writer out there even the slightest bit serious about the craft, they need to be aware of file backup options.
And there are fewer excuses than ever. External USB hard drives have had their prices drop to the point where it’s possible to get a terabyte of storage for under $80. Online backup services run for as little as $5/month, which removes the danger of both your primary and backup copies being lost in the same event (theft, fire, giant space cow landing on your house). Still too expensive? Head to the cloud! Google Documents is a free place to stick any document you want. Office Online it playing catchup, but promises a future of being able to shift documents back and forth between the cloud and Office on any PC.
In short: BACK UP! Back up often. Back up redundantly. Don’t have any file, whether it be a story, a photo, a video, a memory of any kind, existing only on one computer unless you don’t mind potentially losing it.
DL Thurston is the author of Rust, available in print, for the Kindle (US/UK), from iBooks, and in all other eBook reader standards. You can read his various exploits at his blog, follow him on Twitter, or watch him try to make sense of the War of 1812. He thinks he finally has a grip on what kind of story he wants to write with his cruise observations, if only he had a plot. He also remembered to include both this and a graphic in his first pass, and thus may not spend half the day editing this post.