Writers: How Prepared are You for Disasters?

By: C. M. Clifton

On August 29, 2005, I lost about 90% of my writing and writing-related items to a natural disaster. As a resident of New Orleans, I learned to be prepared for hurricanes over the years, but had failed to adequately prepare so that I could have salvaged at least some of my writing and writing related items. I lost a thick file of story ideas I had been collecting before I had even began to learn the rules and elements of fiction writing. I lost countless hard and soft copies of stories in progress, along with the earliest stories I had attempted when I first began to try my pen at fiction writing. Poems, rejection letters, acceptance letters, character biographies, and hand written journals were all lost to flood water.

Now, a year and two months after Hurricane Katrina and the levee breaches, I'm better prepared to save the writing I've done since. If you are not already protecting your writing in case of a natural, or otherwise, disaster, then here are a few suggestions you might want to consider.

1. Create Back Up Copies

Try to have at least one additional copy of all of your stories, poems, articles, etc. Create back up copies by using such storage devices like flash drives, rewritable compact discs, and floppy disks, if possible. Consider creating hard copies, or printed copies, of your writing.

2. Choose How You Will Store Your Writing

Consider how you might prefer to store those back up copies you've created. Your choices can include briefcases, hand held file cases, small plastic containers the size of shoe boxes, and small fire and water proof safes. Also try to be sure to return compact discs and floppy disks into their jewel cases. This will help make it easy to store the compact discs and floppy disks into the larger storage containers you've chosen.

3. Choose Where You Will Store Your Writing

Consider choosing a central place where you would prefer to store the larger containers holding your compact discs, floppy disks, and flash drives. Try to pick a spot where you'll keep the things you might be able to grab in a hurry, and a spot that you think will be safe for what you may have to leave behind. For example, I now store some of my hard copies in a hand held file case that I keep on the floor of my closet so I could grab the case in a hurry. Storage containers that I might have to leave are kept higher on closet shelves and taller bookcase shelves.

4. Have a Plan

Besides having an evacuation plan or an escape route, you might want to consider planning ahead about what you would prefer to take, especially if you're forced to leave your home in a hurry. Would you rather grab your hand written journals, copies of your most recent writing, or the writing you consider most important at the time? Of course, if you are able to evacuate ahead of time, then there's a chance you could take all of your writing along with you.

Although there's the possibility that I won't face any disasters in the future, I'm at least comforted knowing that I've taken better precautions. And while I still might be unable to save all of my writing and writing-related items when or if the next disaster strikes, I'm better prepared so that I may be able to save some of my writing. Above all, however, is that we work to save our lives in case of disasters. I hope that you won't ever have to set your own disaster plans in motion, but also that you'll consider utilizing the suggestions I've made. Happy writing and stay safe!

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