To most people, I don’t look like a hoarder. And I’m not, in general. But when it comes to my writing, well, yes, yes I am. In trying to pare down, I’ve found that my writing related hoarding boils down to three categories. One, notebooks and scraps of paper filled with jotted ideas, random thoughts, character names, catchy phrases. Unorganized, largely unreadable, and often mystifying, therefore for the most part worthless. Why do I hang on to them? Fear. Fear that I will never have another idea. That there will come a time when my ideas run out. Hasn’t happened yet, but hey, you never know. Yet, new ideas constantly come along, and I never end up going back to the old stash. When I do (rarely), I find I can no longer recall what prompted a notation such as “torn coupon” or “strict bed rest.” So, yeah, pretty much worthless.
Two, stacks of photocopied, printed or torn out writing related articles. Topics include, craft, markets, technology, inspiration, motivation. Again, why do I keep them? Fear. Fear that I’m not good enough yet. One of them might, just might, contain the one tip, insight or information that will take me to the next level. But on a practical basis, how many of them do I read or re-read, once I’ve put them in the files? Aren’t the technical ones, as well as the markets already outdated? Isn’t all that stuff available online anyway?
Three, old stories, drafts, outlines that never went anywhere. Why do I keep them? Some have the germ of an idea that is still good, or a theme that I still want to explore. I still believe they could be developed into a decent story, essay or poem. This pile makes more sense to me. Just this morning, I found a story I started years ago, but that I saw a new market for recently.
There is a fourth category that I don’t consider hoarding. This is a shelf with copies of all my printed work from over the years. It’s a testament to my worth as a writer. In low moments, it reminds me that I did it before and I can do it again. But looking at the first two categories, I sense they represent a fundamental self-doubt that may end up being crippling, rather than supportive. Don’t they just bog me down? I want to focus on the current viable ideas, on the future, on the writing yet to be, on the writing I do today. All the inspiration in the world, all the bits of ideas in the world, are only valuable if they get turned into submittable work. That’s where I need to spend my time.