Disintegrating stories, unlike buildings, have little heritage value


Old structures intrigue me. I’m not really sure why, but I suspect it’s a bit of nostalgia that causes me to pause when I come across one, and wonder about its origins or history.

This one is the original log cabin built on our Cariboo property by my father with the help of a neighbouring trapper. I know its history. It’s one room that housed my parents and me during summer holidays and hunting excursions. It still stands, although I think packrats are the only residents now.

The old water wheel on the hill overlooking Fort Steele in BC’s Kootenay country always garners a glance as we drive by. Tourists are invited to “explore tomorrow today” in the heritage townsite that dates back to the mid-1800s.

And I love this old gate, even if it no longer serves anything beyond a decorative purpose. It’s picturesque, although nobody sees it anymore. It leads to an abandoned log home accessible only via a bridge that collapsed years ago.

Then there is this old chair. At one time it served as a desk chair in my parents’ home office. Eventually it found its way into our cabin, and resided there until it was replaced and relegated to the woodshed. Someone toted it down to the lakeshore where we occasionally sat to reflect on the view. When it became unsafe, my hubby took it apart, and a portion was salvaged to be wall art.

But this … this old hay shed caught my attention for a different reason. It’s not far from Monte Creek , a small rural community in south central  BC. I’ve driven past it innumerable times and am always surprised that it’s still in use. For what and why, I don’t know. Anything stored inside is destined to be just as affected by the weather as it would be outside. I’m not sure one could even call it picturesque. It’s simply old and worn out.

That roof reminds me of one of my stories – with a plot full of holes, holding together a shaky structure. I keep shoring it up because I hate to admit I’ve let it reach this stage.  Thinking of abandoning the hard-won words and letting them disintegrate into the ground like so much compost fills me with melancholy. I have so much time and effort invested in the writing. But I’m disillusioned if I believe it serves any legitimate purpose.

Then again, I suppose I learned things during its construction. And maybe the printout would make a good doorstop. I know one thing for sure: it will never have heritage value!


What about your early, now-abandoned manuscripts? Did they serve a purpose? Did you learn anything from them?

~  ~  ~

12 thoughts on “Disintegrating stories, unlike buildings, have little heritage value

  1. Carole, I do always love the photographic wanderings through your world. I suppose it may be that some structures will fall into decay and become part of the earth, perhaps not even kindle for the home fires. Yet, I prefer to think of my old manuscripts like the old barns that dotted the roads up state New York. When the first enterprising person, found the owner and bought a part of history for a song. Then he sang all the way to the bank after he disassembled it, dipped, refinished and cleaned out worm holes and termite damage and sold wide planks for a woman’s kitchen, used the old sidings for the interior of a man’s den …

    I kind of like to think of my old worn out MS as one of those barns, not much use in their current state … but if I wash and refinish them, and recyle their many parts, those parts can become whole again inside a new story. Like people, things that look old and useless, are often real treasures, waiting for some enterprising person to “see” them differently 🙂

  2. I love your photos. You show off the beauty of BC so well.

    I look at my old, abandoned writing from time to time. I’ve been tempted to toss it out, but have decided to leave it. I’m viewing it as my growth, my building blocks 🙂

  3. Norma McGuire says:

    How I love the comment by Florence Fois , especially this:
    “Like people, things that look old and useless, are often real treasures, waiting for some enterprising person to “see” them differently.”

    You see, maybe I really am a treasure!

  4. Laura Best says:

    Nothing written is ever wasted. I’m called to think about an early novel I wrote but left abandoned. When I stop and reflect upon the story, one of the characters from that novel is quite a bit like a character in my present story. Some characters are like that. They’re going to have their day one way or another.. Interesting post, Carol!

  5. Keli Gwyn says:

    Love, love, love the pics! I’ve become such a history buff since I began writing historicals. Thankfully my hubby enjoys visiting historical sights as much as I do.

    My early stories were fraught with flaws. For that matter, my debut novel was, too, which is why my agent told me to ditch the final three-quarters of it and rewrite those 75,000 words. It takes time to learn to craft a marketable story. I plan to spend a lifetime learning to make my stories better and better.

  6. Oh my, dear friend…you’ve caught me again…yesterday and today your writings and pics have given me lots to think about!! We are still unpacking, moving stuff
    around and wondering what possessed us to have so much stuff! Not only do we have it here, but in storage also. It’s like many of my beginnings, I’ve got it…just
    don’t know what to do with it. : 7( Altho I am rounding up a list of things to put on my blog which I’ve also neglected… And YES! Norma you are a treasure!

  7. OH, PS am going to have to find out about that historic water wheel and it’s place in the Kootney’s (already got a story started for it!!!) You just never know what’s going to pop up outa the blue! mE

  8. Darlene says:

    I love old buildings too. There is one in SE Alberta that was built by my great grandfather around 1911 after they immigrated from South Russia which housed the family of 6 at the time. And a wonderful old barn, quite disintegrated, built by my other great grandfather a few miles away. I always think, if these buildings could talk, what amazing stories they could share.

  9. joylene says:

    I’ve only abandoned one ms and for good reason. It was badly written and rather boring. Not at all like your bridge. If it had half the class, I’d pull it out. Your photography is stunning, Carol. You never fail to evoke wonderful feelings. Goodness, sometimes I even choke up over the memories they bring forward. I love your stories, your photographs, but mostly your keen eye for what’s important.

    Max Barry thinks blogs are on the outs because twitter and facebook offer shorter articles. Max obviously hasn’t read your blog. Yes, I’m sure he’s wrong.

  10. Katt says:

    I don’t have any abandoned ms. I have several in boxes that probably will stay there. They were “born” early in my writing career, and are likely to stay in their current “home”.
    I also love old barns. When I saw the first picture it reminded me of some of my early paintings. I love painting old barns. I’m not sure what the attraction is, but I always feel “safe” whenever I think about those old barns……
    another great blog my friend!

  11. Shari Green says:

    It can be hard to let go of a story after investing so much time and emotional energy in it. But I do have some in which the structure really can’t support the story (and the roof’s full of holes anyway), so I’ve let them go. And I’m okay with that. Working on those manuscripts taught me a lot of what I now know about writing. They were part of my training — a very necessary part!

    Love the photos! It often seems you can almost hear old buildings whispering their stories…. (I must’ve inherited my love of old buildings from you!)

  12. careann says:

    Welcome to all of you! I always enjoy reading through your comments to see what you may have gleaned from my musings.

    I do like Florence‘s comment: “Like people, things that look old and useless, are often real treasures, waiting for some enterprising person to “see” them differently.” And yes, Norma, I agree with Earlene, you definitely *are* a treasure!

    Earlene, I’ve sent you some of the info I have on that water wheel. They really are fascinating structures, aren’t they?

    Joylene, I don’t consider any of these photos stunning, but I’m happy if they’ve conveyed the right feeling to accompany my message. As for Max Berry’s opinion… I don’t think he even agrees with it. If he did, he wouldn’t bother keeping up his own blog. 🙂 I do think he’s right about most being too long. Sometimes I look at the length of mine and think, “Nobody is going to read this through to the end,” and I chop out a paragraph or two.

    Katt, I’d like to see some of your paintings. Do you have photos of them anywhere?

    I think, as Shari says, our earliest manuscripts are a necessary step in our growth as writers. Whether or not we keep them, salvage pieces or characters out of them, or discard them, they really do serve an important purpose.

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