Sunday, June 19, 2011

Decluttering Your Writing Life (and a Question)

When I left my day job nine months ago, one of the first tasks I tackled was thinning out the jammed filing cabinets in my office. File folders in all ten drawers were so stuffed that it was tough to add a single sheet of paper. I knew that I never looked at seventy percent of the content. Thinning out those drawers took several weeks, and was usually tackled after a day of writing and other chores. Week after week, I browsed over every sheet to see if I really needed it. Gradually, armloads of papers went to the recycling bin. I tell you, it was a great feeling.

After feeling a little burned out by all of the online newsletters and things I subscribed to, it became clear by my unmanageable inbox that I needed to unsubscribe to many things, as I simply had no time to read most of them. Downloading emails each morning goes much faster now, and I feel like I can breathe easier.

Those of you who follow me on twitter (@debrapurdykong) know all about my ongoing kitchen (involving our family room) renovation that began May 2nd. One of the unexpected, but welcome, outcomes from the experience is that I’ve had to declutter my house as well. Piles of magazines, kids’ games, and other things have either been given away, sent to recycling, or are now stored in new cupboards. However, this also affected my office, where the circuit breaker box is kept. New kitchen lighting required rewiring, which required me to move stacks of old drafts of novels out of the electrician’s way. Honestly, I had no idea I’d squirreled away so much stuff, but after 23 years in this house, I shouldn’t be surprised.

So, I began another reorganizing, decluttering process, but this one’s got me a bit confused. You see, I’ve written, on average, ten to twelve drafts of my first three novels, and have kept each draft in a box. Needless to say, those boxes are taking up a fair bit of space, and I’m wondering if I should start recycling those drafts, especially for my first book which was published 15 years ago. I’ve started using the backs of those sheets to print drafts of my current work in progress, but part of me wants to take each box and simply chuck it in the recycling bin. So, what should I do with these old drafts? Save them or chuck them after the book has been published?

P.S. I also have nearly 850 books I’ve bought or been given over the years, but I’m just not ready to part with those yet.

THE OPPOSITE OF DARK,, book trailer


Julie H. Ferguson said...

IF you do decide to chuck the drafts, shred them. I would be scared to put them into recycling whole ...

Marian Allen said...

Wrap 'em in plastic and store them somewhere. When you become rich and famous, somebody will make his or her career on comparing them.

Marian Allen
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

circuitmouse said...

Think of whether you may want to donate your papers to an archive --perhaps a local university?

Karen said...

I'd recycle them. Why would you ever need old drafts of your published work? Declutter!

I know someone who keeps all their papers 'just in case' and now they can't use their office or basement. It's a slippery slope.

Here's a thought - my scanner lets you batch scan many pages at a time. If you really want to keep them, you could scan the drafts and just keep a nice, tidy pdf.

Debra Purdy Kong said...

Thanks for all the comments. I'm still not sure what I'll do, but since I won't be downsizing my home for a few years yet, I don't have to decide right away, thank heaven.