five great things someone else said, vol 17

Once upon a time, life was not backed up on external hard drives. We loved, we lost, we moved forward. Yet we didn’t lose all that much. There are lifetimes of written correspondence and journals, paintings and photographs that have survived centuries, millennia, without a Dropbox.

We live in fear of what our computers, natural disasters, life can destroy – I find absolutely annoying, and yet I am incapable of not worrying about it. I back up everything. What would George Carlin think about all the virtual stuff we carry?

I look at old screenplays of my father’s or grandfather’s, held together with brads or leather bound. They formatted their pages themselves, a part of the process those of the Final Draft generation (me) take for granted. They were pounded out on Smith Corona and Hermes typewriters, respectively. They’re kept in bookcases and filing cabinets, but there are no backups. Perhaps copies float around, maybe with colleagues and some are in archives, but there is no Dropbox. There are not backups of every revision and variation. But they’re not concerned – and I’m beginning to think I know why.

I never worry much about having copies of all of my written correspondence. Of duplicates of photo albums taken with film cameras.  But the things I make on the computer: pages typed but not yet printed, designs in Photoshop, images uploaded to Lightroom – there is something about these intangible things, things capable of disappearing without any evidence they ever existed, that leave me feeling the need to secure their place.

Touch has a memory. – John Keats

About two years ago, I had an external hard drive corrupt. 500GB drive, almost full. I had the option of spending a few thousand dollars to see if they could possibly, maybe, on the off chance, retrieve some of the files. I thought it over and figured I could probably account for more than half of the stuff that really mattered to me – whether I had it on disk, on a computer, or in hard copies. I thought it over and decided to let it go. I was angry and inconvenienced and learned a few lessons, but I decided that I’d rather move on than hold onto the frustration.

Over the last two years, on several occasions I’ve gone looking for a photo or a file and realized it was lost with that drive. It’s not as terrible as it seemed in that moment when I pressed the power button and I heard the dreaded click, like the sound of a metronome.

The sound, when described over the phone to a guy in tech support somewhere on the other side of the planet, was meant with silence and a sincere apology.

But I’m fine without those missing files. Really, quite surprisingly, I am. xo a.

And now, four more great things someone else said about holding on and letting go:

What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it. – Gabriel García Márquez

If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered. – Edgar Allan Poe

Sometimes you have to let go to see if there was anything worth holding on to.– Unknown

Things without all remedy
Should be without regard: what’s done, is done. – William Shakespeare


2 thoughts on “five great things someone else said, vol 17

  1. Denis Wright

    I relate to this story so closely that you will realise I understand exactly what you have experienced with a crashed hard backup drive. There’s a particular one I called ‘Deep Blue’ (because that was its colour!) and so many times things I suddenly want out of well… the Blue!… I discover were on that drive. I know they were because I have a splendid cataloguing system for everything on every drive, and I can see what should have been there. Why are they invariably on THAT one?

    Yes, we have to let them go, even though frustratingly we also know that the data is all there; it’s purely a mechanical fault that we don’t want to spend money on fixing,

    And of course, the fact that we can’t get it back makes it seem so much better than it probably would turn out to be if we could!


    1. alexandrawrote Post author

      How true that the idea of how great those things were is far more interesting/inspiring than whatever we actually lost (in most circumstances.) I do not trust an EXT HD to be a sole backup, just as I wouldn’t trust my computer as a sole backup. I always try to have a second, or third, place I have backed up the most important docs. But I think the loss of that external drive was a good lesson in the stress reduction that comes with letting go.


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