I’m a pack rat. But I’m an organized pack rat. Ok, Ok. I might also have a few hoarding tendencies. There. I said it. (Most pack rat/hoarders are also in denial. So, yay me.)
Luckily, because I am unwilling to part with my psychosis, I’ve developed techniques to manage it. For instance, I’m the master at Garage Box Tetris. I can fit more office supplies in a drawer than you would think possible. And closets, well actually, let’s not talk about closets.
It’s just that I still see value in lots of things I no longer need. And that counts for words too. Writing needs obvious focal points, right? The problem with word hoarders, like me, is that it’s hard to see the focal points because there’s too much junk in the way. You see where I’m going with this.
Sure, maybe a certain sentence is a tad too much here or just doesn’t work there. But it is such a nice sentence, a perfectly good sentence. It would be a real shame to throw it away. A real waste. There are starving artists who would will kill for that sentence.
Just as no hoarder can part with something they deem valuable by throwing it away, I too panic when holding down the delete button. It feels too final. So over the years, I’ve found what I can come to terms with.
The key to getting rid of something you don’t want to get rid of, is to call it something besides “getting rid of it”.
So to soften the blow, I created an Outtakes file. This word document is the closet where I hide my hoarded prose so that my metaphorical house is tidy. Those sentences I love dearly needn’t be deleted into oblivion. They can have a home here. I cut all that dearly loved work that is cluttering up the project and then paste it into my outtakes file (with the supposed intention of cannibalizing it someday).
But a funny thing happens. Not only are you able to see the floor of that metaphorical house again, but you find you don’t need the extra clutter at all. Of course, if it breaks your heart too much to let it go, you can always go trash-picking later and retrieve it.
And thus begins the Law of Circulation. (That’s a thing right?)
Let the words go and more will flow.
Put those chopped-out prose out of sight and mind and you will create better, more poignant sentences to replace them. You also learn, once you look over your junk closet with a new set of eyes, that some of the sentences didn’t work because, let’s face it, they weren’t THAT good.
But still… Let’s keep them. You know, just in case.