In lieu of something new and shiny to share with you, today’s mental meandering is a re-run from November 2008. I hate to admit publicly that I’ve been contemplating some office tidying. When I say contemplating I mean staring ineffectively at the accumulation of paper that surrounds me in here. I think it has something to do with the New Year and all those ambitious ‘intentions’ that are awaiting the application of elbow grease. Whatever! It seems nobody else is likely to do anything about the mess, so I guess it’s up to me. I’m not sure I’m up to tackling the task, but I’m contemplating it. That’s a positive step, isn’t it?
My bedroom closet should be purged. It contains sizes I haven’t worn in a decade. There’s a dresser drawer full of sox I don’t wear, too. They’re in assorted eye-catching colours but I only wear black ones now. (It doesn’t matter what else I’m wearing, black is always chic.) Then there are those kitchen cupboards devoted to empty plastic containers that should be recycled, and gadgets that looked indispensable when demonstrated but have never been used.
You get the picture. I’m a hoarder. This may explain why I have in my office a virtual bottom shelf piled to capacity with printouts of successive drafts of my novels and copies of all the articles I’ve written–kept for what purpose I don’t know. After all, I have clips of the published articles neatly filed away. And you can be sure those early novel drafts will never be offered as reading material, even to uncritical family members. So why haven’t they been tossed out? My theory, if anyone happens to ask, is that writers should keep a record of their journey towards publication.
During the months (and years) while rejection slips accumulate I can take encouragement from the knowledge that what’s been sent out is far superior to the earlier versions. If proof is required I need only browse a few pages of Draft #1 and compare them to Draft #20.
As those pages collect dust on the shelf, however, I wonder if some will outlive me and my publication hopes for them. After I’m gone might someone believe these old manuscripts should be circulated? What a terrifying thought!
“… If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my drafts to take.”
Do you keep copies of all the old versions of your manuscript(s)? Or are you ruthless in eliminating every trace of them? And, the big question… why?