Sculptors mold. Or chisel away. Painters sketch. Actors rehearse.
We make notes.
Bits. And pieces. Easy – when spirit moves, fingers applied to keyboard produce ‘in that moment’ thoughts. Then what? Painter has a sketch pile. Sculptor has ‘little studies’ to ponder. What does a writer look at? No matter how carefully I store (and back up) my work, it’s never handy when needed – stored away for ‘just the right place’, and then I’m writing something and I have no idea where it is. It frustrates in the moment – but also drives home the reality that most words we (I’m speaking for all writers – presuming I have some right to) write never see the light of day beyond our own review, reshaping and saving or discarding. I presume we all want to publish only things that feel ‘just right’ for the moment, the day or the purpose.
But what do we do with those millions of words on a hard drive – how do we sift and search and use or reuse them? Should we even try?
Reading, editing and repurposing old work may be ‘living in the past’, but it serves another valuable purpose – of jogging memory to reminisce about days long gone, to re-learn my own old lessons.
What I do, as a writer, with those lessons and learning is far less clear. Maybe they belong distilled into some door-stop worthy think book. Maybe they are just grist in my mill or apprenticeship for the real-deal, the powerful essay or insightful shorty story. Or for punctuation in my novel ~ amusing side trips for readers to explore or ignore, hmm …