Monday, January 01, 2007

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

Many a great writer - and some of the rest of us, too - have had the urge to burn our false-starts and incomplete work. Or at least throw them away. Certainly never look at them again. And yet, I have found of late that there is value in some of those old pieces. Indeed, work I thought was garbage has time and again returned, tugging at my sleeve, until, with the good grace of time and distance between creation and revision, I have been able to recognize the potential in a piece I had given up on.

Who are the old acquaintances of your writing, those sketches, half-formed ideas and unfinished novels that deserve a second look? Old acquaintances should not be forgot. Let them go, leave them alone, and they may well come home wagging some new inspiration behind them. (Now there's some kind of bizarre stream-of-consciousness metaphor-mixing happening, huh?)


  1. One nice thing about modern computing is that you can find everything. I try to make sure whatever it is (or was) gets on the hard drive, as a simple text file if nothing else. It can be fascinating to search for odd words -- "revenge" was a recent one -- and see what odd forgotten notions pop up!

  2. ooh, now there's an idea. I've been thinking about trying to salvage some stuff that's only typed, and some other stuff that's on 5.25 floppies. I just need to find someone who still has a working 5.25 floppy drive. ;)

    I have had the experience of actually completely, consciously destroying a manuscript -- and despite the temptation, it's an experience I'm determined not to repeat.

  3. Why are you determined not to repeat that experience, Jamie?

  4. As you pointed out, with the distance of time one can so often see value in works previously thought worthless. It will be a lot harder for me now to remember what the nuggets were in that novel I destroyed.

    Though several other stories I wrote at the same time ... twenty years on, I'm still mostly wincing when I look at them. :)

  5. Ah, the wincing, as if we're being confronted by our deformed bastard children. There was a time I went through old diary entries and wrote cruel and disparaging remarks about my former selves in the margins. Then, at another phase of life, I looked through again and cringed at the cruelty of that midway self. Perhaps someday we will be able to see those immature creations simply as the evolutionary steps they are and not as some hideous creatures to be ashamed of and hide from the light of day.

  6. Oh man, I can definitely relate to the wincing part. I keep a lot of my old stuff partly out of sentimentality, partly to keep myself humble. Some of it goes as far as back as the fourth grade. Looking back on it can be embarassing, educational, or amusing, depending on the day.

    I'm thinking about reworking most of the old kiddie stuff, possibly for audiodramas. Of course you'll never get me drunk enough to show you the originals....


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