Tuesday, February 15, 2005

No longer discarded

Where do all the ideas go? It used to be - back in the early days - I would complete an entire story, save it to disk, then go back and edit, removing or adding paragraphs and entire passages, then save it to disk again. Then I’d do it again and again until I had said everything in such a way that I wanted it said. Then I’d go back and finesse, cleaning up the syntax, grammar, and punctuation until the story was as perfect as I could get it, at the time, and within my skills. But the last version was always a wholly different story than the first. More than once, I was able to write entire stories inspired by those deleted paragraphs and passages. More than once, I’ve read through an early version of a story and smiled at my own awkwardness and naïvety, emblazoned forever on those pages.

But those days are gone. I tend to edit on the fly now, deleting entire paragraphs and passages as I go. I still end up with numerous drafts of the same piece, but they’re more or less the same. Exercises in comma placement. Choices between the upstanding semicolon and the more risqué dash. Ellipse or no ellipsis. The differences are important, yes, but technical and certainly not inspiring. At times, I try to think back to a deleted paragraph, but can only paraphrase, at best, its idea watered down by time. I try to recall a passage, and find that it, too, is gone, the words now jumbled and confusing in my mind - impossible to use for anything other than fuel for aggravation.

So, where do all the ideas go? I’ve vowed to – from this point forward – commit all ideas, all deleted paragraphs and passages, to a separate file. No longer discarded, I’ll keep them in a safe place for easy reference. But what of the ones lost – no, abandoned – over the years? They’re gone forever, but I’ll never make the same mistake again. Or so I say. The Delete key looms, always within easy striking distance of my little finger. It calls to me, beckoning: Just hit me, you know you want to. It’s so easy. Don’t fuss with cutting and pasting. Come on, what are you, chicken? And I am. I’m scared of losing an idea - they’re such precious commodities these days.

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