Letting Go of Our Darlings
We writers write. It’s what we do. And writing means collecting—okay, hoarding—stacks and stacks and stacks of papers containing short stories, poems, notes, outlines, and even entire novels. At least, that’s what it meant in the old days, before the digital world exploded and one-hundred-thousand words could be saved on a space the size of a pinhead.
For those of us old enough to remember how it used to be, we still have all those stacks of stuff. All my earlier writing is tucked away in shoeboxes and shipping boxes, in folders and binders, all waiting for either revision and digital saving or shredding, the latter to ensure no one will ever read any of it. Trust me, you don’t want to endure the purple prose.
I have things I wrote in high school, and a novel I penned in my early 20s when the only thing I understood about writing was that I loved to do it. There is half a novel I wrote by hand on multiple legal pads before my time and sanity were hijacked by motherhood and an outside career. Those early things I wrote will never see the light of day. Ever. So why is it so difficult to relegate them to the trash heap?
Since our last little chickadee flew the coop, the hubster and I have begun to downsize. We’ve prowled through the attic and emptied the closets in every room. We’ve sorted through everything thirty-seven years of marriage has collected. No small feat. The only remaining holdout is my closet, where the aforementioned boxes and binders and stacks reside.
“I’ll take care of it this week,” I told my man—two months ago.
While my sensible side tells me there’s no reason to save that silly historical romance—which has no chance of publication and which I would be humiliated for anyone to read—the other side of me, the sentimental side, can’t endure the notion of taking all that hard work and dumping it. That is the only solution though, if I don’t want my children snickering over it after I kick the bucket and go to the giant writing room in the sky.
Admittedly, there are a couple of those old manuscripts I do intend to revise and see published. But the bulk of stuff is not, and will never be, ready for prime time. And while it may constitute many pieces of myself, is it really more important than other things I’ve collected through the years, things this downsizing project has required me to kiss and release? There is freedom in letting go.
And so, buttercup, I’m at a crossroads. In my heart I know it is time to unload those writings I don’t intend to revisit. They are nothing short of a fire hazard, collecting dust in dark corners. And yet . . . and yet . . .
I suppose I don’t know what I will do until I have already done it. I’ll let you know.
What about you? Do save everything you’ve written, or do you trash those things you know have no value beyond the sentimental? What would you do, if you were me?
Thanks for hanging out with me. See you next week for more of the Naked Truth.
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