Last night's phase of the great sorting project involved looking in a box labeled "Old writing not typed into computer." I was expecting lots of handwritten drafts.
Instead, I found drafts that had been typed into a computer--but a very old Mac that no longer exists. It had a 9 inch screen. By the time I loaded it with a few programs, it had very little storage space on the hard drive. In those days, I kept everything on "floppy" discs, the three inch kind--I had back ups of the back ups and paper, for when all else might have failed.
Now I have a file drawer size box full of short stories from a period of roughly 10 years. Once I sent some of them out to journals as I hoped for publication. Some were never going to be revised to that state. I no longer remember which was which. I kept them all, because my PhD training stressed how important the papers of a writer are. I imagine that Keats died with a drawer full of rough drafts too. I imagine he died thinking that he had failed as a writer and wishing that he had just had more time.
If we could find an unpublished poem or letter of his, how happy we would be. We wouldn't care that he hadn't revised it to a publishable state. We wouldn't care that he didn't mean for us to see it.
My spouse takes the stance that I should destroy all the writing that I wouldn't want discovered after my death, and he includes the weak short stories and poems of my youth. He said, "Even if you become a famous writer, would you want people to read those?"
Actually, yes, yes I would. I think they show an interesting trajectory.
Will I be famous that way? Will anyone be interested in the detritus of my youth? Will I be interested?
For now, I'll keep storing them, although I am moving them into something more waterproof. It won't help if water sweeps through the house. But if water seeps up through the floor, the cardboard file boxes that I had been using won't be much help.
I realize that I'm preparing for the last disaster. I'm hoping I don't have to worry about water coming up through the floor again.
I didn't take time to read all of the stories, but I did leaf through them. I'm keeping them too, because they're like an alternate journal to me. I read them, and I'm transported to the time that I wrote them. I still remember the inspiration, and I'm still intrigued by my attempt to make the transformation to art.
Some day, I might be a little old lady with lots of time to read those rough drafts. For now, I'm keeping them safe and stored in my closet.
I'm also thinking of the rough drafts of short stories that I've written in the past 10 years. If I printed them all, would I have as much paper? I don't think so. Does it matter? After all, most of them are just going to sit in a box. But it does tell me that my writing focus has shifted.
If I printed all my blog posts, would I have the same amount of paper? No, I'd have more. Now I am more trusting of electronic storage. I don't print paper back ups of every scrap I write, the way I once did. I realize that one day, I may wish that I had done more with paper storage.
Or I may have given up caring. I may have finally realized that I have to trust the drafts to make their own way in the world.
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