One of the coolest things about being a writer, the absolute best thing, is looking back through drafts. Revisiting work that you either forgot about (it happens!), left unfinished, or decided to abandon because the lure of another project. However, make the time to revisit the old work.
Why is this important? It shouldn’t be on the surface, but it should be something you as a writer do periodically. Reflection is a muscle to a writer, especially in matters of their own work! There does come a time when you must have a working detachment to your work. notice I did not say to become hyper critical about it, or towards it.
You must be able to view unfinished work, as that: unfinished. Not bad. Not unworthy. Not horrible. But unfinished. The work awaits you, and you for the work.
The work is always there!
In examining the work left undone, you have to see it as both done–and undone. You may yet fall in love with it again. Research, time and experience sometimes congeal to grant the fuel a writer to complete what is left–of their own work. You would even be surprise at how flipping a character’s POV, gender, or revamping a subplot into the main plot could work wonders!
Here are your hidden jewels, dear ones. Go find them!
There is this concept of a draft-drawer on my podcast, The Writers’ Block. But the concept in its entirety is not my own. I heard the marvelous Anne Rice mention that she doesn’t throw any work away–she puts it in a drawer.
Anne Rice says that she does this because she wants to be able to go back and revisit a work, and have something to draw from. I agree. As a writer, you need to have, to develop enough faith in your work that you value even the things you do not complete!
The things you have stored away, hidden away or you find yourself second guessing? Don’t toss them away: save them. Why you may ask? Not everything that is incomplete is impossible. Not every project, every poem, every novel is created, finished in a linear fashion! Some things we start need to sit with us a while longer. The POV redone, more research added. But nothing should be tossed away because the process to create it is hard.
What is in your draft-drawer? What things have you kept? What things do you need to revisit? Why have you not revisited them?
The draft-drawer is a form of self-recycling. Your imagination is both the source and end of all things in this capacity. You control the pace and flow of the work! With you saving the work, this work undone or unpolished, you grant yourself the freedom to start again; creation is at your demand. Do not sell yourself so short as to throw something away.
The Three R’s found in Ecology are apt with writers as well, albeit with a twist:
The free writes, the stray and floating ideas–what do you have on hand?
On Season 1 of The Writers’ Block Podcast, I talked about the this concept. I talked about how we, as writers, don’t truly know the wealth that we have! In understanding that wealth you have, you created, you may have to create something that I call, the draft-drawer.
The draft-drawer is a place where you put all the work you haven’t gotten to yet, aren’t sure where to go next, or things you got stuck on. This could even be snippets of plots, titles, or even snippets of conversation you jot! Your draft-drawer is a both a well and wealth of information!
With the new year, new decade at slow hum, don’t think that you need to recreate the wheel! That can be stressful for a writer, trust me. But you need to know is the new, potent, powerful work may just be hidden in a file. It may be incomplete. It may be in the transition from the thoughts in your head to the words and worlds on the page.
The work is there. The work has always been there. It’s your job to either find it, complete it, or find more of it.