Do I really need to save this? Probably not.

In my ongoing process of cleaning up my files and getting them in order, I’ve come across quite a few printed copies of the same stories. Which surprises me, because I though I’d thinned out that particular collection of papers back in 2006 when I got rid of all those three ring binders. Apparently not…?

And these copies of stories that I mailed off to publishers? Yeah, I definitely don’t need them. Hell, I don’t really need the rejection letters either, to be honest…most of those date back to over fifteen years ago and I’d like to think I’ve learned from my writing mistakes by now. I’m in 100% agreement with them for rejecting that short story from the mid-90s — it’s kind of embarrassing to read now, and I’m embarrassed to admit I even submitted such a piece of half-baked trash.

Which leaves me with…what? Oh, I still have some of the printouts saved. These are the ones I actually used for revision purposes, writing detailed notes in the margins. Those were helpful and I’m okay with those cluttering up my bookcase. And I’m definitely saving those scraps of paper where I’d originally come up with the idea during a slow moment at the Day Job. Those are always fun to look at and remember how it all started.

I found myself doing the same exact thing when I cleaned out my old collection of 3″ floppies. I’d saved a lot of my work on multiple disks over the course of a decade, and making duplicates seemed like a great idea, given how easily they’d get corrupted over time. Especially when I reused older disks. Some documents I had only one surviving copy, while others I’d had maybe three or four. (I narrowed these down by way of moving them to folders on my shared drive and deleting the duplicates via matching the timestamps. I may still have some duplicates, but it’s a hell of a lot more organized now.) Once that particular project is done, I’ll save it to my cloud account for security.

But with the paper versions…I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important things I want to save is the longhand notes and outtakes, the original sketches, the partial outlines…the work behind the finished product. Anything else can go either way.

Thankfully, I’ve kind of grown out of being a pack rat. I used to be a horrible one, both with my writing and pretty much everything I collected. Marriage and moving across the country made me rethink that. Hell, I’ve even cut down on my books! Seriously, though…I’ve still got my digital writings in their various versions (I save each new revision version under a different name so you can still see the work in progress.)

I no longer feel bad getting rid of that fifth print-out of chapter 3 of a book I’ve trunked over a decade ago…as long as I have it saved digitally, that’s good enough.

More on going through old writings

I’m still going through a lot of my old writings here in Spare Oom when I can carve out an hour or so here and there. It’s much easier for me to go through a small collection of folders than it is to attempt sorting the entire thing; less of a chance for me to feel overwhelmed, and definitely less clutter.

My trick this time out is that I’ve put each project or creation in its own plastic sheet protector, and labeling them with Post-Its noting the assumed dates. That way if I find the occasional misfiled item, I can pull out that plastic and put them in their proper place. Many of these will eventually be bound into report binders once I’m done.

I’m also doing a lot of shredding. Why save school notes from 1991 when all I really want to save is the original artwork or poem I’d written in the margin? Why save printouts of documents I know I still have in .doc files? Why save rejection letters from 1998? I have absolutely no use for any of it, and looking at them only elicits the reaction ‘why do I still have this…?’ so out they go!

And all those spiral notebooks with seven or eight pages (or surprisingly, sixty or seventy) that I haven’t touched in years? Time to tear those pages out, bind them in the plastic folders, and find a new use for the notebooks — or alternately, throw them in recycling. I think I’ve finally shaken off that habit of buying them and rarely using them, thankfully!

Most of my writing has already been sorted sometime back, but there are folders of randomness, most likely created under the guise of ‘I’ll sort it later’ or ‘etc’. Which of course means I’d never remember where it was. This time out, I’m sorting at the micro level. A map that’s actually part of my Murph Universe or the Mendaihu Universe or whatever writing/artwork project will of course go into those writing project binders.

I already know this is going to take a long time, quite possibly a few more months. I’m not rushing it. Keeping each sorting session – and cleaning up after each one – makes it a lot easier to handle. One section, one pile at a time, that’s all I need to do.

All this while working on the revision of Diwa and Kaffi, you ask? Yes! I can still find a few minutes here and there to sort through things. After I log off for the day but before I head out to meet A at the gym. My afternoon break. Slow Sunday afternoons when all my other errands are done. And I’m not doing this out of a sense of wanting to relive the past, or even because I might be looking for old notes and outtakes for a revived project. This is just part of my Tidying Up project.

That said, if I do happen to find some old and useful notes, I’m not going to complain. Something new might come out of it!

Revisiting old ideas: Two Thousand

Two Thousand was an idea I’d come up with sometime in 1991 while working in the Media Center of the Emerson College Library, back when it was at 150 Beacon. (I still miss that place.) I’d been puttering through our multimedia collection of 16mm films and videotapes in the back office when I stumbled up on our copy of Howard Hawks’ pre-code screwball comedy Twentieth Century. Though the title comes from the train in the film, I kind of liked the idea of a story title evoking a second meaning: the coming of a new era. I thought: in just a few short years we would be sliding into not just a new century but a new millennia. What about a story about a group of people of different ages coming to terms with 2000 being just around the corner? (Yes, yes, I know technically they both start with the year 2001. But I refuse to be a pedantic doofus.)

Originally the idea was to write a handful of intertwined short stories about Gen-Xers of different stripes making their first tentative steps into the real world and moving towards their own personal and career goals. It was a lofty idea and I wrote quite a few short snippets, notes and story arc maps, and though I was never quite able to make any of them work at the time (mainly due to inexperience of writing in particular and life in general), I always thought it was a great basis for a project.

One particular story thread from this project was about a young man with dreams of fame with his band Billow, and what it would take to achieve more than just local success. I was continually drawn to this idea (I had a secret desire to be a busker to make extra change, but I never had the time or the emotional stability then, and felt my guitar work was far from decent) and revived it in 1994 as a new writing project unrelated to any of my much older trunked ideas. I made some rather significant headway with this one, writing perhaps a dozen or so chapters and mapping out nearly the entire story. And yes, I even created a two-cassette mix tape soundtrack for it.

As you may have already guessed, this too fell by the wayside due to the Great Fail of ’95 when I moved back to my hometown, broke and broken. I was not in the best of mindsets to work on the project, and besides; I’d already started working on True Faith with my ex-gf by then, which set me on the very long road of writing science fiction and learning how to actually write.

Neither version of Two Thousand ever really disappeared. Every now and again I’d revive it, if only for a short time, then file it away when a more important project came along. Thankfully, at some point in the late 90s I’d made extremely detailed index cards of the short story ideas, character names, places, quotes, and even soundtracks.

Recently I tried reviving the story about four or five years ago that I trunked almost immediately, as it wasn’t anywhere near what I was trying to achieve with the idea. I did, however, give Billow some page time as guest stars in Meet the Lidwells! as the Lidwells’ favorite Boston band to tour with, and the climactic scene of Thomas performing “Listening” live was borrowed from a similar idea that was to be part of Billow’s story.

Thirty years on, and I still think of this project now and again, especially when I think about my college days in Boston. (And yes, listening to a lot of music from 1991-94, especially early Britpop, brings back the memories as well.) Will I ever revive it? Should I? Some stories should of course stay trunked, but it doesn’t hurt to dust off some of these ideas, especially if I can use them elsewhere or in new ways. Lately I’ve been thinking of playing around with these short stories for my Daily Words, just to keep the writing muscles active. I don’t plan on being too serious about it, but if it ends up being something worth expanding on, then it’s worth a shot, right?