As most of you know, I recently rearranged my writing studio. Okay, full disclosure time: I’m still actively working on it, after nearly 3 weeks of mostly dedicated effort. It may look lovely to the casual observer but, lurking beneath the neat surface, is my hideous secret: it’s really a mess. Tucked inside of the cabinets and chests and drawers is a dark, sloppy, sordid underbelly of….paper. Legal pads and printer paper and napkins, all containing writing in various states of completion: snippets, phrases, paragraphs. Mixed in with the chaos is the odd draft (or ten) of a finished piece, long ago published and forgotten. (Note to self: I really need to come up with a better archival system for the labor of my life’s work.)
Most of the intellectual debris is inchoate, belonging to ideas discarded so far in my past that I couldn’t begin to recall any of them no matter how hard I tried. I’m not positive if I kept these papers-reams worth, surely-out of laziness or a sense that they contained a kernel of something worthwhile, something that my mind would be ready for at an unspecified time in my writing future. As I’d like to think it was the latter, I’m dedicating February to the laborious task of sifting through the tattered piles. What exactly am I in search of, you ask? Anything salvageable, really: bits of beauty or truth or brief virtuosity; a good idea, a jumping off point, a compelling argument.
I’m curious. Do you ever keep your unused writing? Why? For how long? Do you ever go back to it, dust it off, and try to incorporate it into a new idea?