Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cleaning House

I’ve never considered myself a hoarder. My recycling bin is filled every week, my floors are clear of any type of debris, and I have no trouble chucking out things  that I no longer use, whether it be clothes or shoes or household items. I’ve realized, though, that anything to do with writing is another issue. I’ve been trying to keep my office  floor clear but it’s not been as easy as it should be.

Over the years, I’ve read several articles about how important it is for writers not to toss anything they’ve written. The authors were adamant that the prose we’ve had to cut from one book or short story could be useful in another piece down the road. That might be true, but I have file folders of ideas and discarded paragraphs that I haven’t looked at in a long time, and I’m not sure I want to. My imagination is still active, churning out new ideas and words pretty much every day. Would it be so terrible to purge the files and work on something new and definitely more relevant to the genres and themes I’m writing now?

As far as my personal library goes, I bit the bullet and gave away ten boxes of books last summer. It felt good, but I still have a lot of books, so I’m thinking that it might be time to give more away. But here’s the thing that I really have to come to grips with. I have boxes of earlier drafts of my published novels, and I’ve started to ask myself why I am keeping them.

Now, I’ve always edited clean pages with a pencil, and I also edit on the computer screen, then print out a new clean page for the next round of editing. That’s my system and it works for me. But is it also possible that the mantra of not throwing anything out has somehow included all drafts? Saving hard copies might also be throwback to the old days when I wrote on an electric typewriter. Perhaps I just want proof of all the drafts I’ve compiled over the years, which is probably well over a million words by now. My first two mysteries, Taxed to Death and Fatal Encryption, wound up being twelve drafts each. I’ve gone on to publish four more books and two others are in different draft stages. I try not to look at all the boxes sitting on my floor against the wall. Finally, my thinking has shifted to the desire store earlier electronic folders.

Last year, I also realized that there’s more cleaning to be done. I was using an expensive, cumbersome website server. I changed that and now update my  website easily, saving me loads of time and frustration. I stopped wasting time with social media sites that irritated me, and I unsubscribed to dozens of newsletters.

Cleaning house is an ongoing process, but I'm learning just how necessary it is. Once I truly streamline all the stuff sitting in my office, I might even redecorate. Heaven knows it’s long overdue.

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