To Save or Purge Old Writing?
July 3, 2012 § 2 Comments
Do you hang on to old drafts, half-finished essays, bits of a scene, the way some folks collect balls of twine? Poet/essayist/editor Amy Wright looks at the impulse to save and the urge to toss old notebooks and abandoned drafts, even published early work, purging that which is no longer vital:
What strikes me when any artist destroys or deletes some amount of his or her oeuvre is how complicated the sentiment is behind the simple gesture. It flies in the face of ambition, mocks sometimes a life’s work. But it is also tinged with enough pride to sit uneasily as a wholly noble statement. It judges what has come before as inadequate but still believes in something enough to make room for the new or to start over. Perhaps it is the practiced resurrection the mad farmer recommends in Wendell Berry’s poem. Anyway, I admire it even as I resist it.
I attribute some of my reluctance to my Appalachian upbringing. I still have my first pair of track shoes. They hang on a hook in my parents’ cabin where I use them to walk in the creek. Their traction makes them perfect for navigating slippery rocks. My mother repurposes almost everything from disposable strawberry containers to inherited boxes of odds and ends lamp parts. I am naturally inclined to save what I’ve written.