Palimpsest in The Modern World

By Ronda Simmons

What is a palimpsest, you ask? It is defined as a manuscript, typically of papyrus or parchment, written on more than once, with the earlier writing incompletely scraped off or erased and often legible.

Palimpsest, applied to today’s modern electronic age, refers to a manuscript that has been rewritten so many times that the original prose is primarily, although perhaps not entirely, lost.

A Gregorian piece of music on parchment that was recycled from a much older book.
Photo by Boudewijn Huysmans on Unsplash

A writer is a rewriter, constantly improving and tightening that manuscript, adding a little here, taking a little away there, etc. The danger, of course, is in erasing something that you might wish you hadn’t. In other words, palimpsesting yourself.

How to avoid Palimpsest Syndrome?

The solution, my friends, is to save early and save often. Number your drafts with whatever system works for you. I give a significant rewrite of a new version number, Version 3.0. For example, after each workday, I rename the file to Version 3.1 or 3.15, depending on how much has changed.

Often, I will wish I had some description or a string of dialog that I had deleted. I can find it in one of the older versions. 

What is your backup plan?

What would you do if your laptop or desktop computer met an untimely demise or is stolen? If your backups are on said device, are they lost forever, too?

Bad things happen to good computers.
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

It’s wise to have an external backup disk and also to back up to the Cloud? Why the redundancy? Because no backup system is entirely foolproof. Having both might just save your bacon. There are dozens of iCloud storage plans out there. Spend the time to find the one that works best for you.

The frequency of your backup plan depends upon how much data you’re prepared to lose. If you back up once a week, you are saying to the writing gods, “I can definitely afford to lose a week’s worth of data.” But can you? I have my system automatically set to save hourly. Sometimes I worry that’s not often enough.

Do It Now

Set aside some time, today if possible, to make a backup plan for yourself. Your future self will thank you.

Robert Fulford: A vested interest in palimpsest

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Published by Writing Heights Writing Bug

A blog by writers for everyone interested in books, reading, writing, and just about everything in between.

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