Thursday, 29 March 2018

Writing Pack Rat

Sorry for the radio silence, I've been ill with bronchitis and my computer has been at the shop, so I've been doing the bare minimum.

Since I've been working from my portable hard drive instead of my laptop I've come across some old files I'd forgotten: my Master's dissertation, back-ups of various versions of my books, downloads of notes from websites I'd joined. I've realised I am a writing pack rat, I keep everything. The older I get, the more I hoard.  

It possibly comes from working at the publishers in Edinburgh. While I was there we started putting a lot of the company's materials into the archives at The National Library of Scotland. Old letters, print-outs of old issues, artwork, everything. A relatively well-know Scottish author also died while I was there and we were involved with helping to sort his writing estate for archives. It made me realise how interesting and possibly important it is to keep your work, all the various bits no matter how insubstantial they seem as they build a long-term picture of yourself. 

I've been keeping a journal since I was eleven. I have more than a dozen books between here and our loft in Scotland, ranging from my pre-teen angsting to moving to Europe for the first time to becoming a mother to today. I have an appalling memory and having all these books has been helpful over time to help me fill in blanks from my past, but they are also just interesting. I love going back and looking up what I was doing 5, 15, 15 years ago today. A lot of people I know throw out their old diaries, but I revel in remembering the good and difficult times and also the person I was, warts and all, and how much I've grown. 

I also have kept writing notebooks where I make rough drafts of poems and fiction. I'm pretty sure in my loft, which some day I will empty and bring over here, I have old unfinished stories, poems and novel drafts. Most writers I know hate their early writing and dispose of as much as possible, but I mine through old work for ideas, I reread and laugh at my crazy ideas or poor style. 

I have a file on my computer where I was writing a diary of my gardening work over a couple of years. I have downloads of notes when I first noticed my son having some physical health issues and was sharing it with an online group. I have also started memory books for my children. I am obsessed, I admit it. 

I said in an early journal that I was writing for my future grand-daughter even though I thought I'd never want kids. Now, I don't know who I'm saving all this for, beyond myself. Maybe my children will never be interested in who I was as a child or a young adult, in how my writing developed over the decades. I doubt a National Library will ever want to archive my work. Maybe I will turn it into something, an autobiography or something in my golden years. But there it is, a mountain of paper and Word files, my life in letters. Waiting and growing. 

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