I seem to have developed a latent cleaning compulsion as a response to stress and/or writing avoidance—I’m as surprised as you are—and spent the weekend cleaning and rearranging my desk and going through my overstuffed file cabinet.*
So far, I’ve found research for abandoned and active stories, clippings, half-written first chapters, short stories, shipwrecks, dialogue chunks, outlines, plot bunny droppings, frankendrafts,** essays, extremely questionable poetry, and various other scribbles of a fictional nature.***
Some of the fiction writing dates back to my college days and some is older. There are dot matrix printouts in there, wide-ruled notebook paper written in pencil, floppy disks^ and a lot of adolescent angst.
So, I’ve been hauling this stuff around since I was at least thirteen,^^ keeping it as close as Smaug did Erebor’s net domestic product and defending it with as much sanity as Thorin hoping to uncover a publishable Arkenstone—or a certain protoHobbit searching for his birthday present.
This hoard of mismatched wordsmithing is my work. It’s my precious.
But, you know . . .
Those drawers are packed so full that they’re useless, and it’s getting to the point that . . .
It might be time to. . .
I mean, it’s possible that some of this stuff isn’t . . .
And it’s not like I really believe I’m ever going to finish that story about the . . .
I don’t even remember writing that scene and it’s just a single loose sheet of paper so there’s no context for it, so there’s no point in . . .
But what if I need it . . .
It’s been more difficult than I thought to pare it all down—it’s painful.
Because I have four drawers (and several cartons and binders) full of clinkers and clunkers
but I can’t help seeing each one as a you-know-what in the rough
that might, if I just applied myself, turn into something fantastic.
Except that’s not true.
There may be a few diamonds among the dross, but only a few—and as time passes, they tend to disappear.
I’m not the same person I was when I started making stuff up and putting it down. I don’t think the same way, feel the same way, or express myself in the same ways. My imagination may be a tad slower, but it has a lot more raw material to work with.
And these drawers and cartons full of words and thoughts, ink and flattened fiber pulp were instrumental in that development. They aren’t failures or wasted potential—but their work here is done and they’re blocking my way. Literally and literarily.
They’re a collection of dull, abandoned, heavy carapaces from a series of scintillating insects that flew off a long time ago.
And to be honest, some of ‘em need to be shredded before anyone else can get a good look. Especially the children.
So I’m taking it a folder at a time. Reading, recognizing, wondering, wincing, saving, shredding.
Acknowledging. Honoring. Releasing.
I’ve done a desk shelf and two and a half drawer. So far, my Keeper stack is smaller than my recycling pile.
It still hurts a little to let go, but I think I have the hang of it now.
I’m still planning on sedation, though, when the time comes to tackle my bookshelves . . .
*Ever see one of those commercials where a pile of folded sweaters approximately the height of Hasheem Thabeet is crammed into a plastic bag and vacuum-sealed down to the width of Giselle Bundchen? It’s the same principle, except I used wooden drawers and brute force.
**You know—the drafts cobbled together out of typed and handwritten pages, scrap paper, envelopes, post-its, napkins, images, and digital files saved . . . somewhere.
*** Along with ancient and presumably paid bills, medical assessments, paycheck stubs from a job I left twenty years, school papers and deathless art generated by my kids, not to mention my old IQ tests from ages 6 and 11 which were, in my opinion, a tad optimistic.
^The 3½” ones, thank you, so you can keep your age-related technology jokes to yourself. We who were born before the invention of the Internet and entered the workforce when ASCII was king do not appreciate them. Mouse dependent whippersnappers . . .
^^Though some of it had been archived for decades in my childhood home, until it was
dumped on passed back to me by Dad during one of my folks’ U-haul-themed Thanksgiving visits.
Image of the rough diamond is from the United Stated Geological Survey and is in the public domain.