Stuff

I have too much stuff.

Part of this is because I moved from a 4000 sq ft house to a 1000 sq ft house. I left behind a tremendous square footage of stuff (just ask Lani and Alastair), but I still brought a lot of stuff with me. Since then (two years ago), I have given away even more square footage of stuff, and I still have too much. In not unrelated news, I have too much stuff in the stories I’m working on, but it’s hard to clear them out because I have too many stories I’m working on. At one point I thought I might be a hoarder (of stuff and stories), but Krissie pointed out that I give stuff away all the time without hesitation. Evidently hoarders don’t do that. But still, I have Stuff, and I’ve been thinking about how to deal with it all.

The first realization I came to was that the fact that I have great stuff doesn’t mean I have to keep it. I have gorgeous plates and bowls, but I have a million of them. So I put the ones I use on the shelves and the rest in a box for Krissie to take with her, probably to Goodwill (still haven’t found a Goodwill that’s close by here). I also have eight stories started (You Again, Lavender’s Blue, Haunting Alice, Stealing Nadine, Ghost of a Chance, Cold Hearts, Paradise Park, Monday Street), and a couple of others that are so old it’s like reading somebody else’s book, stories that I loved once and am now trying to find my way back to. I’m think they’re like the plates, though, and some of them need to go to the Fiction Goodwill (aka the trash). The pressure of them sitting in Dropbox is weighing me down, which makes me depressed, which leads me to buy more yarn. (Note to Self: Do not buy any more yarn. Unless it’s really, really good.)

The second break through came when I realized that a lot of my clutter problem is because I bought a house with no closets and no cabinets. The only storage this house had was a triangular shaped closet under the stairs in the guest room, two really small closets in the dining room and back bedroom that had to go in the gut job, and a flimsy china cabinet in the tiny pantry that also had to go (old and a little rotted). My kitchen problems pretty much disappeared when I built the pantry wall and the open shelving in the kitchen proper and then got rid of everything I couldn’t fit there, so I’m thinking that’s the best approach. My yarn problem (Hi, I’m Jenny and I’m a yarn addict), vastly improved when I redesigned the living room to be a studio with really nice chairs and a TV instead of a living room, and my tiny bedroom’s linen problem was solved when I built shelves along the ceiling that hold boxes for sheets and folded quilts. Once the shelves were filled, I started tossing. If I don’t have room to store it and/or I never use it, it goes.

I’m not sure how to translate that into clearing up my fiction overload. It’s easy to get rid of worn sheets or yarn that I have no use for, but stories are different, they’re full of people, and walking away means you’re killing off characters. I started a story called Charlotte (working title) about fifteen years ago and I still have the file in Dropbox. I’m afraid to open it because I’m afraid Charlotte will still be alive in there. I’m pretty sure she’s turned to dust, but I’ve thought that about other stories until I read their beginnings again and thought, “I can’t abandon this character, she needs me.” I’ve also thought about just turning them all into novellas; save the character, save my Fiction Folder. But stories tend to be what they want to be, deciding on their own length, and while you can clean them out, rewrite to get rid of the worn parts and the stuff the story really has no use for, in the end, they’re gonna be what they’re gonna be. It’s a problem.

The big takeaway from all of this, though, is to get rid of Stuff. Finish it, delete it, give it away, whatever, but get rid of everything that isn’t useful or beautiful (except Wolfie) so that I can live a cleaner, easier physical and creative life.

Stuff. I need it, but not this much of it.

72 thoughts on “Stuff

  1. Maybe the answer is to get them out of Dropbox and onto, say, a thumbdrive. A bit like moving your stuff from Ohio to New Jersey, see? Dropbox is a great service, but it can be too much like a junk draw – everything goes in and nothing ever comes out. Clean out Dropbox and give yourself a fresh start. Stick the thumbdrive in whatever you keep pens and such.

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      1. How about a “Fictional Retirement Community” folder in Dropbox then. You can move the stories you’re not working there and the characters can entertain themselves but be (a little) out of sight. That way you don’t have to delete (kill) them and, if you suddenly have a burning desire to work on them later, they’ll still be available.

        Just a suggestion, since I hate deleting anything writing related. It always seems that the minute I do, that’s when I suddenly have a use for it.

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      2. Okay, I get the “and then I’ll lose it,” because I am the QUEEN of putting stuff into a safe space that I can never find again, BUT, what if you put it on the thumbdrive and then put that thumbdrive, say, into one of your walking cups? Accessible, away from pups who might need something to gnaw on, but still find-able?

        And Hi, Jenny, I’m Carol, and I’m a Yarnoholic.

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  2. I was going to suggest something like this too. Move it somewhere you don’ t have to see things every time you go there. Kind of like getting a storage unit for things and when you finally go through it you have forgotten what was there or you never needed it,

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  3. I have a bunch of old partials, and I haven’t tossed them, but I also don’t let them weigh me down. It’s easier for me, though, because they’re romances, and I figured out about five years ago that I don’t have a romantic molecule in my body, so it’s the wrong genre for me. So I can look at something and think, “oh, that’s an old romance, not my problem any more.”

    I’m not sure why I haven’t completely deleted them yet. I’ve deleted some of the oldest and worst, and I’ll eventually delete the rest. A few I sometimes think had enough of a mystery subplot in them that I might be able to salvage something from them, but I suspect that would be more work than starting from scratch. I’ll probably toss them and delete them in the final purge before I move after I sell my house. (Please, please, please, let me sell my house!)

    So, no directly applicable advice other than: can you pretend you’re writing a different genre, even if you have to define it as something like “romance post-2010,” so that everything before that is “romance pre-2010,” and pre-2010 (or choose a date) is a whole’ nother world in many ways, so it doesn’t count as your current genre and therefore not your circus or your monkeys?

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    1. I never think about genre until the book is done. That is, I never think, “I’m writing a romance, better do this;” if I had, there’d be a lot more North in MTT. I just write the story and worry about what it is later. It helps that all my contracts specify “next work of fiction,” not any genre.

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  4. I deal with the overlord by organizing stories into different folders. My “WIP” folder only contains subfolders for projectsI’m actually working on–currently writing or plotting. If it’s not ACTUALLY ACTIVE NOW, a project folder doesn’t go into the “WIP” folder, so I don’t see it every day or even regularly.

    Any project I maybe might write someday, or I do a little bit of work on it now-and-then, or I started work on it but then stopped and have no recommenced, etc., goes into a subfolder that’s stored in an entirely different overall big folder (or “e-filing cabinet,” so to speak). If I get interested in one of those projects and want to actively work on it for a few days or weeks, I move it to the WIP section of my overall system. But if I just see an article or image or something I want to add to that project folder, that’s not “working on” it, and it stays in the inactive filing area.

    About once a year, I go through the inactive file to see if there’s something I really don’t think I’ll ever write. Sometimes it’s SO obvious, I just delete it. Other times, I really don’t think so…. but I’m not sure enough to delete. Then I move it to the “Dead Files,” and I only open that folder once every few years. (Typically, when I do, nothing in it even looks familiar to me.)

    I’d find it distracting, even confusing, to see project files for stuff I’m not working on (or might never work on) every time I go to open a current project file. So I organize my hard drive filing to keep a lot of that stuff out of sight unless I’m deliberately looking for it.

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  5. Wolfie is beautiful and therefore should be kept.

    I guess my take away is if your physical stuff is limited by space (once the shelves are full, stuff got tossed), you can do the same with electronic files. Once the drive is “full” or at a set amount of used memory (75%), then all that doesn’t fit gets deleted.

    Thank you for the “Finish it, delete it, …” I have my own writing project (self-eval for work – I hate writing to begin with but self-evals totally suck) that I must finish. So, this lovely time of procrastination is over and back to it I go. Argh.

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  6. Jenny, I’ve been getting rid of stuff for a long time, and was recently inspired by the Konmari method. Basically, you ask yourself “Do I _love_ this.” If not, say goodbye. I’d kept clothes that went with other things, that I didn’t really like anymore, because I’d wear them occasionally. Now, if I don’t like it, I thank it for it’s past use, or thank it for showing me what doesn’t flatter me, and I put it away.
    Maybe you need to ask yourself which characters you still love, and put the other ones in a separate file?
    Best wishes!

    A link if anyone is interested: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chanel-parks/konmari-decluttering-method_b_6533574.html

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      1. Well, honestly, I’ve never thrown away any fiction I’ve written either. I’ve lost stuff with file crashes, etc., but the bigger things I still have. I know I haven’t written nearly as much as you to even worry about this at this stage, so I honestly don’t know if it would work for me either. But is _does_ help me get rid of clothes and _stuff_. 😉

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      2. Actually, I realized I had the question wrong. Initially, I didn’t bother to come back to clarify, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized it was a big difference. When deciding what to keep, and what to thank, and then let go, the question is, “Does it spark joy?’

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    1. I read Marie Kondo’s book (the KonMari method)–and immediately got rid of 12 boxes and bags of stuff, and can see lots more here that I need to get rid of. As it happens, I have moved often (last time was less than 3 years ago), have always lived in small spaces, am tidy, and am definitely not a clutterbug or packrat… and even I immediately shed stuff and saw more stuff TO shed upon reading Kondo’s book. So it’s a pretty persuasive method.

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      1. I love that book. It’s just a completely different way of looking at things. It’s helping me fill up Krissie’s car (she’s visiting this week), which is okay because she keeps what she wants and drops the rest off at Goodwill.

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    2. It’s a little more than that, even: “Does this item make me happy?”

      I think we all have shirts / manuscripts / relatives that we love, but do not make us happy.

      I can’t ever bring myself to delete a manuscript outright, though. I do put them in a folder called “Old.” Which I might rename to “The Unhappiness File,” now that I think about it.

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  7. I have two conflicting voices on this subject, an old art teacher who said………never throw away your art not even the sketches which fights with my memories of my two spinster aunts who were true Hoarders of the worst kind.
    And the irony of animals in my household is that we call it the geriatric ward because most of them were in double digits until the loss of our sweetheart and the addition of the Kinja (kitten/ninja) Other than the animals, I found after moving for the 15th time in my life and after inheriting my aunts (the hoarders) legacy being the last relative I got the hoard.
    I left the majority in boxes with each move but the last two moves and now in my own house, that I own completely I am finally letting go. Every couple of months I go through a couple more boxes and throw away or give it to Goodwill. And I have found through doing that with the family stuff I am having an easier time letting go of the art work. Sketchbooks stay, some key paintings and sketches from over the years but mostly if someone comes over that loves art I ask if they want any. It has allowed me space to create new works for up and coming art shows yet still feel connected to my past creations, only cried a few times when I lost two key pieces due to someone storing them incorrectly but alas I am the artist I can recreate it in a different form.
    And as for Yarn, I am guilty I have yarn everywhere, much to the delight of the new kitten who likes to drag the really good ones around the house.

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  8. I live in a 12,000 sq ft house, so I know what you’re talking about. I moved in 13 1/2 years ago and a couple of years ago I had a major purge. I took it one closet/one room at a time (I have to sizable storage closets but few actual closets, because it is an old farmhouse and apparently they simply didn’t build closets into them) so I didn’t feel overwhelmed. I started with the closet filled with boxes and said that any box I hadn’t opened since I moved in, I probably didn’t need. I did check anyway and go through everything, but I made myself give away the boxes of picture puzzles (I love doing them but a–I don’t have time and b–5 cats, ’nuff said) and games I didn’t play. I got rid of a LOT of stuff and it felt great.

    I’m due for my periodic clothing purge (tough) and book purge (ARGH). But the clutter–minimal but enough to bother me–has to be winnowed out, and that is mostly cool pottery and artwork, so I’m going to have to decide which things I love and which I’m only fond of.

    I agree with the folks who say don’t throw out your writing. Stash it on a portable backup drive (a big one, not a thumb drive) or online in different folders, but don’t toss it. Someday you may be stuck for an idea (or, you know, desperate for money) and there may be gold in them thar hills. If you really need to toss some of it, see if you can get someone you trust to read through the ones you’re considering getting rid of, and tell you if there is anything there worth keeping.

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    1. For a different location online, how about using another service that gives you a certain amount of free space to start? Perhaps iCloud? Somewhere you don’t usually go to access files.

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      1. Better idea. How about asking Alastair to archive those you want to let go of? Then you wouldn’t have direct access to them, but they would be retrievable.

        I’ve got a ring-binder full of old fiction and non-fiction writing ideas. (I’ve always written longhand until now; but then I’ve never got beyond the idea stage with a story.) I read through it recently, as I tried to get clear on the story I’m working on, and there were one or two sparks that were useful. Like finding odd fragments for a collage – I didn’t want to revisit the whole story idea, but bits were still promising.

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        1. Alastair has escaped to NY; I don’t think yelling, “Alastair, clean out my dropbox, will ya?” would be welcomed.
          Besides. I really have to do it myself. Argh.

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          1. Just tell him, “There is no escape.” and add a “Bwahahahaha.” That ought to do the trick.

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  9. In the last few years, the answer to clutter has been: digitize it. You’ll still have a picture.

    But now, even our digital files are getting so junked up it’s hard to find stuff. We need new systems.

    So, I’m just going to brainstorm a little bit. (Don’t worry, I’ll stop at five.)
    1. If I can’t toss it, write a summary of it, and keep 10 key pictures (if I’ve started a photo file). Keep the song list, but not the song files (you’ll have them in your main song library still — am I the only one who copies songs/video clips in two places because my tagging system sucks?)
    2. If I haven’t opened it in a year — no, three years — toss it. It’ll be a whole new story today, anyway.
    3. I love Elizabeth’s “Retirement Home for Undeveloped Characters.” The problem is that you’ll still have to copy the files over as technology advances and leaves today’s equivalent to the floppy disk behind.
    4. Oh, who am I kidding? This is all too much work. Choose my very favorites, dump the rest. Trust in the universe (or the girls) to send me new ideas when I need them.
    5. If I were in your shoes, find a university who would keep the stories and maintain them, and not look at them until I was dead for XX number of years. (In my case, six months, just to make sure I don’t come back as a vampire or something.) Out of sight, out of mind, but retrievable if I ever need them for anything.

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  10. I vote you store your writing, for posterity if nothing else. You could always bring out a greatest drafts book on writing, like singers bring out a greatest hits album.

    Also how many excellent books came from writers having a look at old drafts and having another go cough (Bet me) cough. Besides think of how many blog posts you can do just posting this stuff to entertain us.

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  11. Speaking of storing your writing for posterity…I curate the American Romance collection at McDaniel College. Your published works are all in it. The Director of the library was saying just the other day that getting the working papers of authors would be a boon to scholars.

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    1. Is your library hiring? A romance collection may trump my library’s comic collection for best collection, especially if it circulates.

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    2. I’m about to start through the office again, but really, I’ve always done everything on computer. I’ll let you know if I find anything, but it’ll be trash, some of it trash with odd stains. What I should have done was given you some of my old computer-marked drafts in Dropbox, but I think they’re all gone. Which is good. My first drafts suck.

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  12. I have a lot of trouble letting go of ideas and knowledge. That’s why my main hoarding tendency is to keep too many books and “interesting things” I’ve printed out (digitization has helped). That’s where I’m coming from when I suggest sticking the uncooked stories into a “girl’s in the basement” file. Clearly they aren’t done with them yet, so give them back.

    I stick all sorts of things that catch my eye for no clear reason into that file. (Much like you choose images for collage.) If I’m ever looking for inspiration, that’s where I go. If not, I’m not distracted by the stuff.

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  13. We moved in October last year from 3000 square feet to 1700 with really, only about 1200 usable because the house has an upstairs I didn’t want (I don’t do stairs well) and went from 22 cupboards in my kitchen to 8. I got rid of a ton of things when getting our old house ready to sell because I was told that ‘less is more attractive’ and knew we’d be downsizing. Well, I’m still getting rid of stuff because I now have ONE closet. ONE! In the master bedroom. Though there are two tiny ones upstairs, one for each bedroom, the house style is early cape cod and they relied originally on things like amoires and things. They must have! So, I’m still getting rid of things.

    All that said, I can’t bring myself to get rid of any of my digital content. Maybe because I’ve gotten rid of so much of my physical content. Who knows? All of my stories are sorted in folders on dropbox so I don’t have to see them unless I decide to. That way, they don’t drive me as crazy as if I looked at them every day. Then when I can work on one or the other, the character talking to me is the story I find and open. For me, that works really well.

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  14. I’m a big believer in just letting things go… but, that’s just me. I’ve horrified people in the past by just getting rid of boxes that were full of old belongings without checking inside them first, but I figured if I can’t remember what’s in them, why not? That’s how I ended up inadvertently getting rid of all my school yearbooks, but I don’t even miss them. So, why not? As I said, that’s just me.

    I’m currently going through things in my house by category of thing (books, clothes, hobbies) and drastically decluttering. So far, I’ve finished clothes, shoes, bags; and mostly finished with books. Then I’ll be on to the hardest category: hobbies/art supplies. But I’m going to be firm. If I’m not actively engaged in the activity, then it’s time to let the supplies go bye-bye. I might be able to sell each hobby as a grouping of supplies/magazines/books, and recoup a little mad money.

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  15. For me the best way to live life is to stay in the present. My old stories are like memories. I really don’t want to re-live them, the same way I don’t particularly like looking through photo albums and watching old family movies. No matter how sweet, there is a painful edge to the experience. I think that’s a healthy, natural reminder that we don’t belong there anymore. We belong here and now. So I hope you’ll feel free, Jenny, to let it all go. You belong with the yarn you’re holding this very minute. You belong with your new story.

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    1. I meant to add that it helps to think of your house as a small ship. Sounds like you’re already doing that, making efficient use of every nook and cranny.

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    2. You know, I agree. Photo albums are kind of creepy for me. And once a book has left my hands and is published, I rarely go back to it unless I have to check something. But the unfinished ones are different. And I have no clue what I’d start as a new story, I think because the old ones are cluttering up my brain.

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  16. Jenny, please, don’t delete your old stories. If you really want to get rid of them, give them to us. With a little camouflage, some of us can probably use a couple of your stories and/or ideas. :))

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  17. This was such a great blog . . . particularly as I’m in the process of downsizing for full time travel in an RV and also struggling to get rid of “stuff” in my WIP. I’ve got “stuff” in Dropbox, “stuff” on two computers, “stuff” in files and LOTS of bits and pieces of “stuff” that never made it to a full outline! Thanks for reminding me to prioritize.

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  18. I seem to recall one of the tenets of Feng Shui is that one something comes into the house something else has to go out. That only works if you are already down to “manageable”. As I watch my friends and family downsize and hope that one day I can talk my husband into it too, I am trying to go at it one area at a time. Now my son and his new wife are moving in for a while and taking my office and I am getting his (sunny) old bedroom. But my “office” is the big room over the garage that has been a catchall for 15 years. I am looking at it as an opportunity, trying to suck it up and throw things out.
    Stories are more difficult. I agree with the others who say you can’t throw them out, but I think if you see them everyday they are stressors and hard on the health. A file hidden deep in your hard drive, backed up externally, will get them out of your line of sight. And they are small, virtual, not like the paintings I have piled in the basement…

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  19. I have to confess that I still have a folder with my earlier stories, all completed but sorely lacking in several areas. Like you, I can’t cast them off. I created those characters and their stories and even though the publishing world said no thanks, I still love them. Ha ha.
    So I say keep your stories if they make you happy. Move on with new stories but go back and visit every so often.
    About accumulating things. I moved to this small home ten years ago and had done a thorough weeding out of stuff. I was very proud of my new minimalist lifestyle. Then my mother in law passed a couple of years ago and she was a huge collector of all kinds of things. My daughter had everything shipped out from NY and ended up with so much stuff at her house, she gave a lot to me. Boxes of china, silverware, artifacts, art pieces, fur coats, and I have them everywhere and they are not me. I need to hold an estate sale, or consign them. But it’s so much work I keep putting it off, because you know, there is writing to be done.

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  20. I’m just like Mary with an ideas/knowledge hoard. If I were a dragon, I’d be a Book Wyrm like in the Mercedes Lackey series. Except I’m a lot less organised.

    I’m working on re-reading and using Miss Minimalist as I’ve found it to resonate more with me than Peter Walsh or Julie Morgenstern. This is the post that focuses on where I need to be working http://www.missminimalist.com/2011/08/declutter-your-fantasy-self/

    I’m also focusing on “Live in the smallest size space you can afford.” My new dream is to declutter enough to be happy and functional in a 3-room setup so that I can let out the rest and have rental income.

    I’ve figured out that letting go of some stuff, including knowledge, means you create energy and space for better/cleverer stuff, or knowledge. I turn into The Incredible’s Edna Mode, “I never look back, dahling. It distracts from the now.”

    With regard to love of the stories and characters, do you love them or love/hate them. Have they become toxic to you? Evaluate and treat them like real live relationships. Are they the guest that came to visit for 6 months but stayed for 3 years? Have the “it’s time to go” conversation with them.

    If you truly want to keep, find a solution from other authors in similar boats. You ain’t the only one who rowed this creek.

    As much as Olga’s idea of Open sourcing them would be great, this is your livelihood and I love you too much to want to risk a copyright suit from your publisher.

    Hi Argh people, Betties, Cherries and Refabbers. Hope y’all are as warm or as cool as you want to be. I’m struggling with seasonal change among other things. But I will prevail. Edna again, “Go, confront the problem. Fight! WIN!”

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    1. We had snow here in upstate NY on Thursday and Friday. The seasonal changes are kicking my substantial behind.

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  21. I think your main issue here is prioritization. If it were me I’d pick the top two- three stories that are the most important contractually and then put the others in a file marked “stuff” or something equally innocuous. Because realistically, you never know when you might need them for something- ideas, a novella like you mentioned, whatever. YOU are the only one taking yourself to task for this. Just because you start a story doesn’t mean you have to finish it, but you never know when you might want/ need it. The main thing is to finish something that will get you paid. Mamma needs a new ball of yarn ?

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    1. It doesn’t work like that with me. If I can’t find my way into a story, it doesn’t matter about contracts or money, the damn thing is going to just lay there like a dead fish. I have to find a way into one of them which is going to take some cogitation. Argh.

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      1. Then I would take a week or so and look at one story a day and not worry about the others. Look at your collages, Google subject matter, and try to rediscover WHY this story appealed to you in the first place. Have fun with it, and then go with the one that feels like the most fun. I think you are WAY too hard on yourself. You don’t have to do everything at once, and you put so much pressure on yourself that you get overwhelmed. You are a brilliant writer, but I think you’ve sucked all of the enjoyment out of it. Please, be kind to yourself, you deserve it.

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      2. Or, you know, put a card for each one on a dartboard and whichever one you hit, work on that one. The scientific method.

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      3. Cogitation is great. But I agree with Eckhart Tolle that thinking hard sometimes gets in our way. Is there another way you might come at these old stories? Do you get into the zone and “cogitate” while you crochet? Because that’s more intuitive than brainwork. Is that what you meant? Or are you relying on your knowledge of craft to get back into them? Maybe you combine both. In other words, I’m curious what roles intuition and knowledge play in your creative process. I’m also interested to know why unfinished stories still call to you. There are so many reasons why they might.

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  22. DH and I have been on a bit of a purge – we had to clear out the garage to have it rebuilt, which mean a whole ton of stuff went away. Underlying this was having had to clear my mother’s house out last year, and that was an experience – we had to shred every check she’d ever written, among other papers. She didn’t toss anything. So when we started our purge, I honestly thought DH would be motivated by our experience last year, but there’s a ton of papers he kept, and to me it’s junk (or at least scan-able) and makes me want to weep, but he wants to keep it, and I’m keeping my mouth shut even though I know someday it’s going to be our poor nieces going through and saying “why did they keep that?” just like we did with my mom’s stuff.

    It’s just so hard to take that deep breathe and let it go, isn’t it?

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  23. Purging is painful. I cannot imagine having to purge characters I have created-however much sense it makes.
    I am known to my kids as never getting rid of stuff. Ever. So they were shocked when Joe and I gave a truck load of old toys to the church garage sale. Daughter #1 says -those little people toys are worth $$$$. So-I just gave away your inheritance ?
    And, I have a couple of boxes of books for the library. Now that was painful. I need to get them out of here before I put them back on the shelf.

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  24. I have a suggestion to give you direction with what to do with your stories…
    Choose one story and work exclusively on it to completion…and may I suggest you start with Alice’s story. I love that book and am anxious to read more about Alice.
    I Love Alice!!! I got a kitten who I found out later loved to scream; and I thought ‘I should have named her Alice.’ ;-))

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  25. Late to the party but chiming in anyway. Kelly beat me to it, but I agree – Wolfie is beautiful, no matter what he looks like! I am also a fan of put all the questionable stuff on a thumb drive and give it to someone else who would be able to find it again if you ever want it – SEP who brags about her office springs to mind, but really, lots of people would volunteer. I am getting that this option doesn’t really appeal to you, but speaking as someone who LOVED some of the original versions of things you posted here, I would be sad to have this stuff dumped.

    I had a great “using up stray skeins of yarn” project going until- yep, had to buy more yarn to finish something. Buying one skein to finish the project turned into five (different) ones, which I thought was very restrained of me. Buying more yarn always seems like a good solution to life situations until you have to put it away.

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  26. My favorite new book about cleaning habits for creative types is, “Drowning in Clutter? Don’t Grab A Floatie…Drain the Ocean” by Dana White. She writes the blog, A Slob Comes Clean. It is truly helpful.

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  27. Not wanting to kill characters who you think might still be alive in there is a nicer reason for not wanting to get rid of stuff than my reason is (as a mostly nonfiction writer): I hate to give up on my ambition for a project. And I tend toward very ambitious projects, which is why pretty much all of them are incomplete. But, perhaps because there are no people in them who are living in my head, fortunately the old projects don’t seem to clutter my head much. (At the point my parents force me to empty my old bedroom, I’ll probably have to throw out a ton of Xeroxes in Russian and Arabic — which I don’t understand and never got around to getting translated — and definitively give up on the paper I meant to write in college about the brief Communist coup in the Sudan during the Nixon Administration.)

    But at the point the people in the story aren’t alive and talking to you anymore, then it seems like it would just be ambition and a dislike of wasting things that would keep the story around. Which I can tell you are not good reasons for clutter, and they’re especially not good at motivating one to finish something that hasn’t gotten finished for years.

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  28. Slight detour posting, but one I thought others here might like to see:

    The blurb below has just appeared on FiveThirtyEight.com (they do a daily “important figures” overview which is a catch-all of interesting numbers popping up in the news). I found it interesting because 1) it mentions that fans regularly because writers themselves (who, us??) and 2) because it mentions that the Romance genre is a good thing for the printing business. There’s a link there to the original article.

    $1.08 billion

    The Romance Writers of America’s estimate of how much the genre made in 2013. The genre is unique in the industry — fundamentally meritocratic (fans regularly become writers themselves) and a huge moneymaker for a beleaguered printing business.

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/significant-digits-for-monday-april-27-2015/

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    1. Thank you for the link, German Chocolate Betty! It was interesting.

      You know what bothers me? Apparently Romance is a billion dollar industry of schlocky writing. The women are praised for being supportive, savvy, money-making powerhouses, but not once for the quality of their writing.

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    2. Thank you. I clicked through to Macleans, and I put it on the reading list for tomorrow. I’d never have found that without you.

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  29. We are about to acquire our second annual dumpster, and thinking of making a thing of it. Maybe just a little dumpster this year… but the feeling of shedding crap into it was so alluring, I want to do it again!

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  30. It would be fun for you to post one of the unfinished stories and then let other writers “work” on it . This could even be a creative class that you teach. The story may not turn out to be YOUR story but I’d like to see how several of the writers who comment in this blog would create something with your starter ideas.

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      1. Sometimes they show you the way it can be done, I once wrote an online story with lots of other contributors and reading their stuff showed me how I wanted it to go. Only time I really believed in my own voice, only story I ever finished, good times.

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      2. Yes, yes it would.
        If I could figure out a way to do it, I’d post a first sentence and let people write a story about it. Maybe restrict them to a first paragraph; that would fit in the comments.

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  31. I’m a little late to the party, but I’d just like to comment on the obvious metaphor.
    Hoarding yarn/hoarding yarns? I knit a bit myself, and have abandoned more than one project. I often have doubts while I’m working on things, but most of the things grow on me. I wear sweaters I made 25 years ago, because they are classics– shawl collared soft brown cardigan, really nice pullover with complicated cables that goes in at the waste so I don’t look like a marshmallow covered in rope, that sort of thing.
    When I don’t finish something, (largely because its begun to get on my nerves in the wrong way, as opposed to the way things get on your nerves when they’re working) I put it aside, give my self three months to get over it and then look to see where I went wrong. The things that don’t work are experiments, that I thought would be fun (black and white checkerboard board, tricky little bits of ribbing) and it turns out, I’m not that fun. It is unfair and unkind to present myself to the world as a smiling clown, or a walking game board.
    So– I learned some things, and that if I want to do something wacky, I just make a tea cosy. Tea cosies are excellent for indulging in whimsy, and you can make them out of all the sweaters you had to rip apart because they were ugly, clumsy, or, not really the sort of thing somebody like me wears, in public.
    I’m sure you all see where I’m going with this. Yarn is beautiful, we love it, and knitting is hard work. I note a common theme in your discarded titles– words like haunting, stealing, ghosts. (I suspect Paradise Park has an irony or two in there somewhere.) Well, people who don’t have ghosts and darkness in them tell dull stories, so let out all your love and hate and don’t worry about a happy ending.
    Everybody dies, bad things happen, your favourite, favourite bowl gets broken by your favourite, favourite nephew, but you can’t break a book. All you can do is walk away from it, and write the one that really scares you.
    Warm wishes,
    Jen
    ps– Don’t worry about having a million files and a million different versions. Computers were invented so that libraries would not fall into holes in the ground.

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  32. This may sound weird, but how about consolidating some of your old stories? Obviously, they are not complete in of themselves and maybe some of them just use a friend to find that finish together with. I know a lot of us readers wonder what would happen if A from Story X met B from Story Y, so why not see if some if you have a Story X and a Story Y that could actually coincide/work together? I know it’s not exactly deleting old stuff, but maybe a new way of looking at something could let you FINISH a tale and let the characters find an end that isn’t a trash can or retirement folder.

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  33. I’m an organizer, and I love helping people get rid of stuff! But, I’m pretty sure we live in different states.

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  34. Your old writing=money.
    Even if you don’t want the stories haunting your Dropbox, you can indie publish them under a pen name, take those nickels (or buckets of dollars), and buy yarn.
    Or else let McDaniels have them, but I vote for the first option.

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