Wind your watch

Pilots live and die by checklists. Every task that you might want to do on an airplane is detailed in a checklist, including recovering from emergencies.

On some emergency checklists, the first step is “Wind your watch.”

Why? Because if you’re at a reasonable altitude nothing bad is going to happen instantly, but a lot of bad things can happen if you panic and start yanking controls and flipping switches. The best thing to do is sit back, take a deep breath, and take the time to calmly evaluate the situation.

Same with computer problems, particularly missing data problems. Nothing will change while you stare out your office window. A lot of things can change for the worse if you start randomly opening every project on your computer.

So what should you do?

First, wind your watch.

Second, determine where Scrivener’s automatic backups are. If Scrivener is currently open, you can find them by going to

Mac: Scrivener → Preferences → Backup

Windows: File → Options → Backup

Using Finder or Windows Explorer, not Scrivener itself, move the entire contents of this folder to any convenient location. This will ensure that you don’t overwrite a potentially good backup accidentally, thereby potentially making the problem worse. If you are working on multiple devices, take steps to protect whatever data might be stored elsewhere, too.

Third, determine what has actually happened. Did you open an old version of the project? Does data appear to be missing? Is Scrivener reporting an error? What does the error message suggest?

Using Finder or Windows Explorer, not Scrivener itself, search for all .scriv folders. This will locate all Scrivener projects on your system. Many “missing” data issues are ultimately traced to situations where the person was simply working in the “wrong” version of the project without realizing it.

If you get to this point and still aren’t sure what’s going on, seek help. Read the manual, search our online help materials, ask a question in the forums, or open a support ticket. If for whatever reason you need to address the problem without waiting for a response, make sure to back things up at every step. The last thing you want is to make a bad situation worse by deleting or overwriting potentially useful data.


The way I read it expressed in an article I saw back in the 1980s (about a fire warning in an aircraft) was: “The first thing to do in an emergency is nothing”. I remember it often …

Good advice, Katherine!

Excellent advice!

Unless you’re in a helicopter.

Many pilots refuse to go anywhere near helicopters for exactly this reason.


It’s funny you say this, because I just watched a demonstration last night of auto-rotation in a helicopter that was up at about 5,000 feet. For the first chunk of time, all the pilot did was keep calm and maintain their normal flight routine while talking through the various considerations and decision points they would soon need to be making so that once they dropped to 3,000 feet they had a clear, smooth plan. It was a masterful display of the the “wind your watch” principle.

Having flown same, I can say that a similar philosophy applies. The panic reaction is the one that will put you in the ground in an instant.

There is a saying in flying that got me out of the crap in a downdraft - ‘first fly the plane’ (I used the saying in my first book).

My advice to computer users facing an issue has always been ‘sit on your hands’. If you’re sitting on them you can’t go making things worse.

I’ve not spent much time at 5000 feet in a helicopter. When I did, it was considered a luxury, as I was usually on a ferry flight to somewhere to start a job. And that 5000 feet was if the weather was good.

On the other hand, as a fire pilot, hydro line pilot, slinging diamond drills, gravity surveys with a bomb hanging off the bottom that needed to be at 100 feet, and on and on, I can suggest that if you don’t know where you’re going to go and what you’re going to do when you have a problem (no matter the problem), you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be. If you need time to think about it, you’re too late.

When we did our annual check rides, we were anywhere from ground level to a thousand feet. Had any of us told the check pilot we wanted to commence our autorotations at 5000 feet, we’d have been laughed to the ground.

There are some helicopter models that have an autorotation main rotor rpm environment that will allow the aircraft to increase its glide to make a landing spot. When you’re a bit closer to the ground, you increased main rotor speed to that required for a safe landing. We never did those checks above 1000 feet, either.

Now I will admit that a helicopter bush pilot’s experiences are at variance with an IFR/traffic/corporate and many other flight environments, and end it with that. On the other hand, many bush pilots converted to those jobs and did a fine job.

When I was a glider pilot the one I learned was “aviate, navigate, communicate”. I have heard it many times since. Including from an ex-military helicopter pilot …

But this has reminded me of the time I put a glider into a spin at fairly low alititude and it didn’t immediately come out when I took recovery action. I remember thinking at the time that I had done precisely what you always did to recover, and thinking to myself “it is probably just being slow, I will wait”. It did come out after a short pause, but it was a lot lower than I would have liked. However, I reflected later that it was just as well it had happened to me (I was fairly experienced by then and a qualified instructor) and not an early solo pilot, as they might have thought they ought to try something different – with catastrophic results. What saved me was waiting a short interval.

The next thing to try would have been the parachute, which I was not keen to experiment with.

I was a passenger once on a helicopter tour over the main crater on Kilauea, Hawaii. The pilot had been casually answering questions, pointing out the scientific instruments on the rim, and so on.

Then he got really quiet. Maybe his jaw line tensed a little bit. I felt the slightest little bobble.

Then everything was fine again and the relaxed tour guide came back.

In his previous life, he’d flown for the US Army in Iraq. I guess as long as no one was shooting at him, there wasn’t much that worried him. But the thermal currents over a lava lake still demanded respect.


I haven’t flown over the active volcano but have flown into a very tight extinct one in Hawaii. I wasn’t pilot, but sitting next to pilot you know when it’s time to shut up and let him do his work. The subtle tensing I’ve experienced flying a helicopter in a clearing on a very windy day, and the butt-clench flying a fixed wing through a downdraft at 500, oops now 200 feet.

Worst experience is being in back of a Focker F27 ‘flying elevator’ in a storm at night after an engine fire and shutdown and hoping the guy up front is doing it right on the emergency landing with a lake at the end of the runway. You tend to think the steps through and try to confirm from the aircraft attitude.

I was seated next to the offending engine and when the prop stops without warning you start mentally going through the checklist.

That’s one flight I should have turned around on boarding when the nervous woman in front of me asked the Cabin attendant ‘is this plane safe in such a storm’ and she replied ‘oh yes, it’s our latest’. :unamused:

Absolutely valid point.

Many years back, I was on a United flight making our approach into O’Hare on a fairly turbulent day. I had the entertainment system tuned to the channel that let you listen to the radio channel the pilots were tuned to. One of our pilots was talking when we hit a REALLY big pocket – enough that he broke off and yelled some obscenities. Then reported to the tower that we’d just lost 500 feet of altitude.

Then that channel got shut off.

Me and the few other passengers who had been listening all looked at each other with wide eyes…

Devin, yep that channel can be fun.

Similar into Dubai with last minute pocket and go-around. The tower chat had been relaxed English, suddenly replaced by Arabic shouts, Go-Around command and hold tight. :slight_smile: