Your Writing is not Your Trash

This is a follow-up post to What do you do with your stories when you’re not feeling it?, which I wrote because I think that far too many people judge their work too soon or too unfairly.

When I finally stopped throwing away my writing, something strange brewed inside me.

Now, I am less fearful when I approach the page. I am more of a risk-taker when it comes to writing stories, articles, even blog posts. If I don’t like what I wrote, it’s not the end of my journey, and I can store it for a rainy day.

I think that throwing my work away gave me the subconscious message that I am a failure, that I’m basically killing trees and wasting ink for a no-good, nothing, nowhere dream.

Now that I  simply tuck away something that isn’t working, like down comforters in the summertime, I feel more powerful, more in control of my journey. I feel that I’ve made the tougher choice …

To try again.

Throwing our stuff away is a dangerous path that can lead to quitting. Each time you throw your writing away, you are telling yourself you aren’t a good writer. Keep up that bad habit, and eventually you will be killing any faith you once had in your writing self. Your muse will shut down. The ideas will stop flowing. You will give up writing.

Trying to get back on the writing horse ain’t easy. I know because I did it. Losing the baby weight was a helluva lot easier! Once up and going on that writing horse, I swore I would never quit again — no matter how tough my journey might get.

Take a risk. Don’t throw your writing away.

Are you writing this summer? Send me a bit or all of your work and earn a chance to win a copy of one of my two ebooks for writers OR a story coaching session designed for your specific needs!

Send your story in a Word doc attachment (or something similar) to my email address: k [dot] johnston [at] comcast [dot] net. Deadline for entries is August 26th, 2016!

Have a writerly day!

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36 thoughts on “Your Writing is not Your Trash

  1. Great advice. Throwing stuff away can lead to quitting. I find it fun to occasionally read through old stuff I’ve put aside. Sometimes, inspiration does hit. It’s odd.

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    • I love that–“every word gets us closer”–exactly! I think the whole rule of “10,000 hours to become expert” has been debunked, but it really is true in theory. The more we write, the better we get.

      I am having a fab week! Hope you are, too!

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  2. I can be quite prolific in terms of poetry but I set my self such a challenge this summer and I am playing with a short story which is longer than intended. It has been nice to dip into it at any time, (no pressure) even adding four words, or changing a complete section with such – a bit like finding time for reading as you mention.
    These days with this magic box I never throw away, whether it be a few typed lines or a few words – I make a file because you are right, it says something and also with my memory it could be lost forever. Even bits that bubble up in my head while in bed, if I remember them, I will get them down. I may never use them but they are there.

    You have a great idea here and generous soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s nice to give ourselves challenges that are all about fun and yet still get us producing something. I like how you’re going about your writing. You aren’t scaring yourself out of it, and that’s hugely important. Writing has got to be about the joy, first and foremost, in my opinion. That’s what will keep us going when it starts getting difficult.

      Thanks for chiming in!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I don’t throw work away, but sometimes I’m writing a story and I think “I’ve got the perfect line for this part that I removed a while ago from another piece of writing”. Sounds great? Not really because I can never find it (LOL). I need to brush up on my record keeping – but it is a great idea to keep everything 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Dianne, I have done that before! If you’re working on a computer, it’s usually not too much trouble to use the find/search function to locate that bit. BUT it is a lot of trouble if you never backed up your work and your computer gets drooled on by your English setter and is subsequently fried, thus losing all of your work. Yeah, then the find/search function doesn’t help you at all! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. LOL about the baby weight versus climbing back on the writing horse! That’s too true! 😀

    As always, this is a great, thoughtful post, Kate. I don’t throw anything away, but I do often delete from the Internet. Sometimes that’s motivated by a simple desire to clean house, but it can also come from disillusionment. That’s when it’s really important for me to remember that, even though other people might not want to take the time to read or comment on a story I’ve written, it’s still something that I created, nurtured, and developed with my own heart and imagination. Taking to heart the idea that our writing is not our trash, I actually got up from my desk just now and went over to the file folder I keep of scribbles I do when I’m at work. Looking through some of those old notes of dialogue and description – even the bad ones – made me laugh and smile and think, “I’m not really as terrible as I sometimes lead myself to believe.”

    I hope your post resonates with others the way that it has done with me. Because every story is worth the effort of keeping around. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s awesome, Mayumi. I’m so glad you have a safe place for your work, no matter where you might be with it, so that it is never lost. That sense of rejuvenation or, even, confidence, when we re-read our old work is such a high. It’s thrilling. We must be careful to nurture that feeling as it is also very fragile.

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  5. Great stuff, honey! I don’t ever throw my writing away—except once I did have a blog post I drafted and made the choice to delete instead of hitting “publish.” I was in a mood, and the piece reflected that. I didn’t think it had anything positive (or valuable) to offer, so I said: So long, sucker!

    Come to think of it, I took a blogging break right after that. I was definitely burnt out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You bring up a valid point–if the writing isn’t offering anything valuable to you or to a reader then maybe it should be scrapped, or at least, tabled. But, we still need to vent and writing is an awesome place for that. Making our not-so-great stuff public is another question entirely!

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  6. Hey, Kate! Great advice. I keep just about everything I write except the truly terrible stuff. I guess I should hold on to that writing too. I believe I will send you my manuscript and you can read as little or as much of it as you like. I’d love to hear what you think of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m still an advocate for keeping even the truly terrible stuff. 😉 Make up a file folder and title it “Truly Terrible Stuff” — you’re sure to get a smile out of yourself when you look at it, at least once.

      Your ms is next on my TBR list. I can’t wait!

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  7. I wrote a post recently coming at this from a different angle. I have never thrown anything away, I could never do it. But 10, 15 years on (am I really that old) I have a filing cabinet full of my old writings. Now they are like an albatross round my neck, I feel weighed down by them. I still won’t throw them away, I believe in the stories even if the writing was amateurish back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a great attitude, Darren — believing in your stories regardless of the quality of the writing. That’s exactly how we should approach our work when we’re at our initial drafts anyway. The more you write, the better you’ll get, and those stories will benefit.

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  8. Glad to hear about your change of heart Kate. No more throwing any writing away. You’ll be surprised when you revisit it one day and might find a place for it in another work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re right! Anytime I cut from a project, I take a look at it from a general point of view and figure out how it can be used in another project. Nine times out of ten I find a new home right away. Makes me feel like at least I’m not wasting time or work when I know I can use it somewhere else. Not that writing it in the first place is ever a waste of time, but it can be frustrating to cut loads of material after having invested months in it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh yes, I know how cutting ‘our darlings’ hurt. I sent my very rough excerpt of a chapter to you, lol. After 200 revisions and my editors mark ups, I know all about the chops. 🙂

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      • Well, your rough draft didn’t read “rough” to me at all! I wanted more, in all honesty, because I was hooked. I’m going to give you some feedback and send it back to you once I’ve read through all the submissions for the challenge. Happily, I received over a dozen entries! It’s been fun reading all the stuff people sent to me.

        The more and more I cut my darlings, the easier it is to not even write them in the first place, I’ve found. It’s like I can sense their approach before they make it to the page, haha. Some of them do sneak by, but my writing is a lot different now that I’ve been put through the wringer with revisions, rejections, and feedback from beta readers!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. love both these posts – you are SO right! I too chucked stuff out that I thought was rubbish… fortunately, I’d typed most things up and given them to my parents as presents! now I get to type them up again and make something amazing out of the dross! like you, I believe that if it doesn’t work straightaway, put it away. it may work later… (loving your blog posts even if I don’t always have time to comment! xxx)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Giving your writings to your parents is a great idea! And it sounds like they’re supportive in that way, which makes it 100 times better. I think our ideas are always valuable but that there is a right place and a right time for them. We can’t give up on ourselves or let ourselves off the hook–and throwing away our stuff just makes it that much easier to think we’re bad writers.

      I’m happy you’re enjoying my posts, and I totally get the problem with finding time to comment. I struggle with that too, so no worries there, my dear!!

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  10. I used to throw away a lot of my work for the very reasons you mentioned. When I was in college, I remembered trading stories with other students and after reading them, I thought that I would never be as good as them. It was, and is, a perception that is hard for me to shake off. To tell myself that I am a good writer. To not compare myself to anyone else. To keep my work because I can go back and make something new out of it.

    I wish I kept my works from college. Not only for the nostalgia, but also to look back on them to see how much I’ve improved as a writer. I’m keeping the stuff I have now, even if it’s junk. It may come in handy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a shame what we do to ourselves, but I totally understand where you’re coming from. That comparison to others. It doesn’t help that in queries we have to offer comps to literary agents as a way of illustrating what our book is like. Why can’t my book be its own entity? Why do I have to compare it to another book out there already? Seems like we’re only narrowing the playing field that way.

      Even though you lost some of your work, I’m glad that you realize trashing your stuff isn’t the answer. As the old saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20!

      Thanks for swinging by and the follow!

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  11. Pingback: Your Writing is not Your Trash | WANDA S. PARYLA

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