Friday, I had a small disaster in my kitchen. I pulled out a shelf in my pantry cupboard and a small recipe box flipped over backwards onto the bottom shelf. Recipe cards were scattered all along the shelf and the floor in front of it along with the alphabetized dividers. I muttered to myself as I retrieved all the cards and the box. It's one I don't use all that often but there are some old tried and true recipes in there that I've collected over the years--many from friends and family. It still gives me great pleasure to see and use those handwritten by my mother.
I tossed the whole mess on the kitchen counter after deciding I couldn't deal with it at that moment. Today, while I was watching a basketball game on TV, I put the dividers in order, then began sorting through the recipe cards, many faded with time. Ones I knew I'd never make again, I tossed and refiled the others. The box is now organized and lighter--ready to be put in a new spot. It will definitely go somewhere that the disaster will not repeat.
As I worked my way through the dozens and dozens of index cards, I started to think about the stories, articles and poems in my writing files. They aren't going to fall off a shelf and scatter hither and yon. Nope. They just sit quietly in my Documents file until I pull them up for one reason or another.
It might be a good idea to go through your own file to see what you want to save and what you may want to dump. Some writers would never get rid of anything they've written. Not ever! Even if it is nothing more than an opening paragraph to a story. I would never delete without careful calculation. I'd need to ask myself if I've written something already to replace it. Or if it is so godawful that it doesn't deserve to be kept. I might wonder if revision and editing could save it. There could be a few things that I truly hate. I might wonder if I'd written it on a bad writing day. Yes, I do believe there are things not to be kept. But, if you just cannot destroy the words you've written, so be it. Make a folder with those stories in it.
But what about those that merit staying in the file? There are plenty of completed stories that have already been published. Should I keep those? Yes. Why? There are plenty of places that take reprints and maybe the story can be published once again. I might possibly use it as a base for another story. I might want to use it for an example in this blog. I like it--which is as fine a reason as any other! An editor might ask for a sample of my writing and those published stories come in handy.
Others might need to be kept for revision and editing. It seems like no story is ever completed. Even those published works are open to revision when submitting as a reprint.
You know what else most of us have in our files? Unfinished pieces. I have some that are nothing more than a paragraph or two. I once wrote an opening scene for a children's story that was great. But once I set the scene, I didn't know where to take it. And so it sits--waiting for me to continue. I bet you have some of those, too.
Spend some time with your Document files. You may discover some hidden gems--like me today with the recipes. Some of them made me want to start cooking on a bigtime scale. Maybe some of those forgotten stories will give you the itch to start writing to bring them to a submittable stage.
It's all too easy to forget what is in our Document file so do check through it every now and then.