Your Dog Need Never Eat Your Homework (or Your Novel) Again

Posted: September 14, 2012 in Uncategorized

by David Bain

NOTE: This essay also appears in my $.99 ebook TEN SHORT ESSAYS ON WRITING. You may freely copy and repost or reprint this article as long as all links, the above byline, this note, and all following text remains unchanged.

My students come up with all sorts of excuses.

It has literally gone from “My dog ate my homework” – which I actually got once (the dog ripped it up or some such) – to “My dog ate my flash drive” – which happens more often than you’d think. (Flash drives apparently smell like bacon and make wonderful chew toys.)

I loathe flash drives. As a rogue, wandering adjunct community college prof, teaching at three different locations any given semester, I lost flash drives galore, forgetting them in this computer or that farflung corner of the tri-county area. They got left in my pocket and cycled through the wash. They fell off my keychain. My dog (or maybe it was my chinchillas) even ate one.

I once heard of a writer who would save his work to his flash drive, then run out to his barn and put the flash drive in the glove compartment of his pickup – in case his house blew up. (If I were using that in a story, I’d have his barn blow up too, just for spite.)

My English department’s standardized syllabus requires that students have a flash drive. I used to have to explain what one was (a flash drive, not an English department or a syllabus) on the first day of class. Not so much anymore.

But these days I scratch out that requirement – well, okay, I use the delete or backspace button – and ask all my students  to get a Dropbox account.

Every writer, every teacher, every student, every human who uses electronic documents of any sort needs a Dropbox account.

If you don’t know what Dropbox is, follow the link and check it out. It’s super-user friendly and it’s a lifesaver. Basically, it creates a folder on the desktop of your computer. Anything you put in that folder automatically gets backed up online. Furthermore, you can put one of these folders on any device you have. Anything you save to one folder automatically shows up in your Dropbox folder on all your devices. And furthermore, you can access your secure Dropbox account and download and upload files from any computer with an internet connection. It’s a lot like emailing your work to yourself, but a lot less hassle.

Every semester I have several students, even computer geeks, who come up and personally thank me for turning them on to this simple but awesome tool.

I have three novels-in-progress, several semesters of work and grading, all the files for my ebooks, including text and cover art, all my family pictures, and endless music files backed up in my Dropbox. I need never be in fear of losing any of that – even if my house, barn, pickup, dogs and chinchillas blow up.

I’ve even used Dropbox to store a few free ebooks for my adoring public to download – The Whispering Worlds Horror/Fantasy/Science Fiction Poetry Anthology and The Road to Gray Lake. (Links to your Dropbox files are secure unless you decide to make individual ones public.)

And, best of all, your dog can’t eat your Dropbox.

Unless he eats your laptop, I guess.

(So tell me again, why, exactly, did you wrap your laptop in bacon?)

(Note that Dropbox is the one that I use, but there are dozens of sites and services like this.)

NOTE: This essay also appears in my $.99 ebook TEN SHORT ESSAYS ON WRITING.

  1. vallypee says:

    Dropbox is best thing I’ve ever subscribed to as well. I’m also a teacher and writer!

  2. John Burks says:

    If you want to get super sneaky cool about your back ups, nest your Dropbox account inside your Microsoft Sky Drive Account which is nested inside your Google Drive account. Same back ups, three different clouds.

    But this is also one of the reasons I started drifting towards a Mac. Pages has cloud functionality built in and I can switch effortlessly from my ipad to my mac.

    • davidbainaa says:

      I had a Mac once and I really kind of miss it. Same with my wife. She was a layout pro for a newspaper back at the time, and the Mac worked wonders which Windows apparently didn’t.

      As for the nesting and such, it looks like I have to get out of the Dark Ages…

  3. Dawn G says:

    Drop box is incredible. We’ve been using the pro version at work for a couple of years now. I’ve never had a problem with it…. and I’ve never managed to lose it LOL

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