Writers are told at a young age  always save your writing even if you don’t think it’s any good or you can’t use it right now, later on you might need it. We read success stories about someone who wrote something, forgot about it, then stumbled across it and it became the work that made them a name (I think the “it” piece in those success stories were the freelance writer’s dream which they wrote down, forgot about, then stumbled across and refurbished it as evidence in the freelance article they’ve been pitching (No I don’t actually–some rediscovered work can be salvaged and freelancers always fact check 🙂 )).

Writers hear this advice and save everything they have ever written or written on. We save essays, journals, exercises, napkins, pieces of cardboard, that scrap of paper you found at the bottom of your purse because you had to write down that good phrase before you forgot it and we save all this because you never know when it will come in handy.

Like other artists, when we get bored in class or at a function we do what we do best. When someone who draws gets bored in History class, they create a line drawn masterpiece in the corner of their notes. When a writer gets bored, we continue working on a sketch or story, mull over plot or story problems (why are these two characters together?) or use the opportunity to write down other ideas that have come to mind or been floating around. We then save those notes.

We accumulate pocket folders and manilla folders and title them “Ideas”. We have bank boxes and Rubbermaid bins full of filled notebooks and papers. We fill closets, under beds, closets with our boxes, trying to be organized. What’s taking up 3/4 of your room? Oh, just my writing stuff.

The air is heavy with stagnant ideas and unfinished business. I realized the other day I haven’t looked at most of my stored material since I put it in its assigned box. I have generated more ideas and more stories. I think we should save what we need or personal items, but we don’t need to save everything we have ever printed or written.

I was able to clear out a lot of writings because I’ve progressed. I saw a lot of redundancy in the story ideas and I remember when I was writing them thinking maybe I could merge this with that other story because they’re so similar. The stories no longer resonate with me as much and those that do have matured and evolved with me. I’m not writing about the same things as I did in the beginning of high school.

By clearing out old writings the energy is a lot lighter. I’ve also scored a bunch of empty folders.