Writing and Publishing

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

When I write, I’m compulsive about saving my work at each lull in my typing and often in between: “alt,” “f,” and “s” at each pause and sometimes even typed midsentence. I don’t want to lose a thing.

There’s a reason for this. Early in my career, and in the early days of PCs, I worked as a tech writer. I lost a week’s worth of work because I grew sloppy with my backups. That experience changed me forever. Now I’m the king of backing up. I save my work often.

Sometimes writing is slow and arduous; the words come with difficulty. If those words were lost, it would merely present an opportunity for a fresh start.

Other times, words gush forth and the results are good.

On rare occasions, I get in the zone. Not only do the words flow fast, but they’re good words, too: cleverly ordered, presenting profound ideas in a compelling manner.

Once my computer locked up when I’d been in the zone and hadn’t saved for several minutes. Dismayed, the thought of losing my eloquent prose was unacceptable.

Hoping for the unlikely, I took a break with the improbable wish that my computer would function when I returned, allowing me to save my precious writing. It didn’t happen.

From desperation springs innovation. I snapped a picture of my computer screen.

Then I rebooted and re-keyed my words.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In my case, it was only a couple hundred, but they were good words and I couldn’t bear to lose them. Thanks to a digital camera, I didn’t have to.

By Peter Lyle DeHaan

Author Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, publishes books about business, customer service, the call center industry, and business and writing.

4 replies on “A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words”

Loved this post, Peter. You revealed some of your writing mannerisms, much like one post I saw of a writer who showed his/her desk. A little peek inside. So I have a question for you. Have you always been so cautious about losing words? Or was this after you DID lose something of value you had written? Just curious. It was a happy day the day I discovered how to take screen shots. Love the option.

Have I ever lost any of my writing. I have written so many poems maybe some slipped away in the night discontent to be part of such a large nameless group. Not sure. Oh I wish I had two things I had written. One was the winning paper which I got to read on the radio in 5th grade in downtown Chicago. It was entitled, My Shadow. And the other is a poem I wrote my mom when she had given us a talk about the best gifts are those hand made. So I bought a little plant and wrote a poem about how my love was like a plant. I tried reproducing it and think I have come close. I remember it meant a lot to her. That, no one can take away from me.

Anne, thanks for your post and a peak into your writing past. We need to celebrate those memories that pointed us towards words.

Although I’ve always been careful about backing up my work, one time I was careless and lost 40 hours of tech writing – hence my fixation on frequent backups and backing up my backups.

That story is at

Good idea. I once almost lost a recording session with a singer by unplugging the secondary harddrive. Fortunately the program was still open and somehow managed to maintain the information I think by saving the information on the primary harddrive. (wipes forehead in relief).
I’ll remember that camera technique for writing.

Wow, Josh! It’s bad enough to lose our own work, but to lose someone else’s would be terrible. Thankfully that didn’t happen.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!