Where I live, bin night is Thursday night. So before I go to bed I empty all the bins in the house and put them into the big bin, wheel it to the footpath and leave it there for the garbage men to collect early on Friday morning.
Every second week is recycling week so it’s two bins on that night. I always check the street to see what bins are out for pick up.
Which is a round about way of getting to the topic of today’s post – throwing out works in progress.
I posted this question on twitter last week:
I have note books of idea, half-finished thoughts and on my computer is a collection of folders containing stories and poems in states of degradation. Some of them are from very early on in my writing journey, others are more recent. But when do you decide to let an idea fester and rot, or attach electrodes to its sensitive parts and flick the switch?
I have a poem that began as an extended Post It Note piece a couple of years ago:
From there I expanded it into a longer piece but it wasn’t working. I had sent it to my crit group and another trusted poet for feedback, and they agreed there was something worthwhile in it but it needed work. I looked at it again and reworked it a few times but was still unsatisfied that it was achieving what I wanted it to do. Therefore, last week I questioned whether it should be filed and dumped or continue working on it.
I then picked up my copy of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled and read a few of the opening pages and it gave me a new way to look at the poem, leading to this declaration on twitter (you will need to read from the bottom up for chronology):
It lead me to ditching the first stanza and completely reworking the poem with a definite metre (although not always strictly applied). The poem has been reviewed by a member of my crit group and while it still needs work, it is a poem I feel has potential.
And I’d thought I’d share the stanza I was throwing out.
In primary school I read the story of Sadako.
A single aeroplane dropped a single bomb
Igniting the century whose flash echoes
Birthing a million universes
While destroying one.
She wished for one thousand paper cranes
to change one world: her world
With symbolic angular, creased lines crafted
a montage of hope and hopelessness
into a winged inanimate prayer
In the coming weeks, I’ll have more pieces for Throw Out Thursday, some poems, some extracts from other works in progress.
When an idea or half finished, or even completely completed piece is done and dusted, I am yet to work out. I know I will leave some ideas and half finished works to rot; others I may return to. It is part of the maturation of a writer to winnow all the ideas you have and sow the good ones. But even the good ideas may not produce a good harvest. That’s the beauty of being a word farmer.
How do you decide whether an idea has past its Use By Date?