So this past Sunday, I settled myself comfortably on the floor, and began to go through two drawers (and 15 years worth) of writing: drafts, notes, rejections, memorabilia. I knew it would be painful--I would've never dared get rid of it all if it hadn't been for the move, and the premium on space--but I hadn't realized what a lovely trip it would be, too.
I discovered multiple copies of a poster from a reading in I did in college, an encouraging note from a writer friend in Chicago, even a hysterical parody of a high school English teacher. I found a piece I wrote from my dog's perspective, of which I have no memory, but it's surprisingly heartfelt (it may have to be resurrected) and included this beauty of a line: "If you can't kill a bone in one night, it wins." I also discovered a lot of rejections--but some lovely rejections, with handwritten notes, back before I knew what a big deal that was.
Here's what I piled in the kitchen hallway for recycling:
- Old Writer and SCBWI magazines
- Several year's worth of SCBWI membership cards
- At least seven notebooks, filled with drafts and notes
- Printed drafts
- Drafts from workshops with handwritten notes
- Assignments from my MA, including my ginormous (and, I must say, quite insightful on re-reading!) essay on cover art
- Plot charts, character maps, exercises galore
- Two ribbon-tied stacks of notecards, filled with plot points
- Handouts from classes, workshops, conferences
- All those old rejections (who saves rejections, even nice ones?!)
Like I said, painful, even scary, but I think it's the right move. It's not like I ever look through that stuff, except for occasionally diving in for a useful handout. It's all for past work, which will either be read and enjoyed as is in the coming years (in which case, I don't need to worry about all the notes and edits), or which will need to be massively rewritten at some point, in which case I really don't want old notes and plot charts to interfere with seeing the work with fresh eyes--though that was some of the hardest bits to toss. All the drafts are saved on my computer, which is frequently backed up--I even dug up the dog story!
Of course, my future biographer may forever look back at this moment with agony, but I'll just have to take that chance.
Here's what I kept:
- Typed evaluations from each module from my MA (some of those comments are a goldmine!)
- An envelope of critiques on the piece that won me a placed in the SCBWI anthology, Undiscovered Voices.
- A stack of agents & editors' business cards--okay, some of them have since rejected me, but still, I have a stack of agents & editors' business cards!
- Handouts on plot, tension, character building, and synopsis writing to which I still frequently refer
- That parody of the high school English teacher--goodness, who knew I was such a clever 18 year old! And I bet that's NOT on my hard drive!
- A personal essay I wrote for my MA in Chicago, including my teacher's encouraging handwritten notes
- A single copy of that poster from my college reading
- And, of course, all my notes and current notebooks for Project Demo and Project Fun. Still a full folder of stuff--I'm not totally crazy, really.
What old writing do you hang on to? What do you toss?
In further news, the last day in Bristol is two weeks from today. I'm also hoping to get my latest revision of Project Demo off by then. So yes, life continues to be manic!