So I’m in the beginning stages of a big new project proposal for Wattpad Paid Stories.
As I’ve set a number of stories and at least one full novel in a particular fictional town (first conceived of and created in my college years in the late 1980s!), I’ve decided to use that town as the setting for the new project. Wondering just where all those old stories were and what I could glean from them for the new project, I plugged in the flash drive I’ve been carrying around in my purse for who-know-how-long and on which I’d copied files from some computer I no longer use. Which one? No idea. Maybe the Dell from 2014? Surely not the Gateway?
(I found a Word file on there from 2001, obviously moved from hard drive to hard drive over the years, if that tells us anything.)
So today, opening certain story files and saving them as Google Docs, I can’t believe how much (and yet how little) I’ve actually written in 30 years. More distressing, my oeuvre is a MESS. Over the years I’ve graduated from paper copies to electronic file storage on a computer hard drive to floppy disc and then a thumb drive. Now there’s the cloud, of course. My files are stashed everywhere and tucked into various folders here, there, everywhere.
I probably ought to copy all of them, I think, opening, closing, reopening flash drive folders. Maybe I ought to print them all out in hard copies, too.
But how to start? Between fictional short stories ranging from high school up until last week, plus my newspaper articles and several novels in draft, my life’s work is housed in manila folders in milk crates and a filing cabinet, thumb drives (and even one bright pink, plastic floppy disk!), and the cloud–all in weirdly-named folders that bear little relation to other weirdly-named folders from years (decades) gone by.
This personal literary equivalent of an archaeological dig brought up some interesting bits and pieces. I scraped here. Brushed cobwebs off there. Stuck artifacts into new files. Wiped my sweaty brow with the back of my dusty hand (figuratively) and dug some more, growing ever more dismayed.
Did I mention the manila folder of clippings from magazine and newspapers related to this fictional town and its inhabitants and conflicts? See photo above.
It goes beyond saying that I’m resisting (fighting tooth and claw) the idea of actually cataloging the whole darn mess, which would be the responsible and professional thing to do, right? Instead, I’m jangling with anxiety (might also have something to do with the three cups of coffee I’ve consumed this morning) and wondering, “What have I lost and how can I possibly get my act together?”
Yes, I’m afraid I’ve lost files. In fact, I vaguely remember some stories that I haven’t unearthed today or in years (decades) past. Do they even matter? Hopefully my writing has matured and improved in thirty years, so perhaps they existed solely as practice sessions, allowing me to grow my writer muscles.
I need to let them go.
Deep breath. Okay. There are some strategies I can use to ease my anxiety. I can take a walk to clear my head. I can meditate and maybe do a few yoga stretches. I can practice gratitude. I haven’t lost everything, after all, and what remains is in fine shape. A little antiquated, maybe, but useful.
Besides, starting anew brings freshness and light to ideas squirreled away long ago in dim and dusty corners of my psyche, buried over time by the sediments of new thoughts, knowledge, and experiences. I’ll spelunk and catalog, dust off and polish, and hand the pieces over to my muse to work on. It will give her something to do besides file her nails and swig her martinis down there in her plush underground lair. She’s the one in the silk pajamas and feathered mules reclining on the sapphire velvet sofa. I, on the other hand…am not.
Anyway, I’ll hand her the pen and tell her it’s time to work, missy. And then she’ll laugh at me and light her cigarette and demand another olive, because that’s how muses roll, but eventually she’ll sigh and get down to business.
After all, she doesn’t want to be the one digging and doing the heavy lifting.
She might break a nail.
How about you? Do you have old projects stashed away in odd places? Does digging into them bring up feelings of anxiety and confusion? Or are you the type of person to finish something (or not) and let it go once it no longer serves you? I’d love to hear from you.