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How deep is that drawer?

I was trying to work on a post about creativity for the blog. It had graphics, and memes, and was really a deep introspective on how I struggle to manage creativity in a life of interruptions, peppered with the observation that as I get older I am finding my creative mojo time is getting earlier and earlier in the day. Where once I was a night owl, now I’m more of a “let’s see if I can get up and get some things done before anyone else wakes up and realizes I’m awake. Starting with the dog…”

Guess I don’t need to write that post since my summary is more than most people will get out of it. But I did like this graphic I was going to use for those times when the creativity faucet is set to max.

But surprise, we’re still going to talk about writing. One of the pieces of advice you often hear is that when you finish a piece, you should put it in a drawer. The time recommended varies, and really, it varies because no two people are alike. I’d wager not even identical twins who both happen to be writers in the same niche genre would have the same habits or techniques.

I thought I understood the advice. I dutifully put a story aside when I finish it, set a timer for three months, then come back to it later. Usually. OK, I’m not so great at that, namely because three months later I’m either not in the same mental space, or I try but it just doesn’t sit with me at the moment.

Well, today I found the box under the box where I hid the boxes under the boxes. I found some stories I wrote not three months ago, not three years ago, but over five to ten years ago.

And let me tell you, they are crap.

I remembered the salient points of these stories. I’ve even referred to them in notes for ideas as “I wrote about this thing once and it was cool!” But today I actually found those stories, and to sum up:

They are at best incoherent. And that’s being generous. I picked them up wondering how much work would be needed to make them usable. I put them down wondering how I could ever have written these.

I am not despairing, and neither should you. I think if you have the means to look at things you wrote years ago, you should. If nothing else it’s a great study in how you’ve improved. In my case, it was a reminder that it’s better to start fresh with the “talent” (ie, practice and hard work) that I’ve accumulated over the intervening years. Because when I look at these stories, although I see the gem of what I was trying to do, I also recognize that this isn’t how I would write them today. My voice has improved, my storytelling has developed.

Maybe at some future point, I’ll post those old stories – along with a critique of where I think they went wrong (is there that much red font in the universe?). Or maybe I’ll post that other blog post, the one about how do you find the creativity faucet when everyone keeps siphoning your time.

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