Sunday, August 18, 2019

The Drawer of Shame

Unfinished manuscripts (on right) in my Drawer of Shame
The summer I turned 15, I took my first glimpse into a much vaster universe than the hum-drum world I knew. I decided I was a writer and only wanted to be a writer. Nearly four decades and thousands of published works later, I've stuck to that pledge. I've lived a literary life and loved the process of living for literature. I love this writing life.

Early on -- within a year of that summer -- I read my first issue of Writer's Digest, a gift from my late, great Grandmother Rachel, herself a writer published in the classic Highlights For Children. That issue contained an article about famous writers and their writing spaces. One legendary scribe remarked in that article -- the ancient issue still on a bookshelf in my writing room -- that he'd published some 300 stories but that he easily had three times that number 'moldering away unfinished' in his home office. That math has horrified me since.

From the time I started, I've been what a member of my writers' group refers to as an 'Idea Hoarder'. I've had it in my mind that I should finish all that I start, including the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. Every December on a brisk Sunday afternoon while the elegant propane stove in our living room flickers, I routinely run through all of my old notebooks and notes to see if I've missed anything, if, somehow, a stray story idea has somehow fallen through the cracks. My stories, short and long, are my babies. Last year, I discovered three 'straybies' by performing my annual forensic search.

Ten years ago, that part of my writing space devoted to storing unfinished manuscripts -- the infamous Drawer of Shame -- sat 77 corpses deep. Also at that time, my list of unfinished ideas was a bloated, strangulating 268 titles and concepts long. For a decade now I've been writing like a dervish and bringing characters off ledges they've been left stranded on. I've reached hundreds of THE ENDs and winnowed down that unwritten list to 48 to-be-completed ideas. The Drawer of Shame now holds a paltry 23 started but stalled works-in-progress, and I hope to cut that number in half before the end of 2019.


My unwritten ideas list, all that red indication a project
completed in 2019
Why finish a story I'll never put on the computer following its longhand draft or submit? Because I loved that story enough to envision it and start it, and, yes, bring it to its conclusion. Because of that covenant I made with the Muse when I dared go by the noble sobriquet of 'Writer'. And because that's just how I'm wired.

By year's end, I hope to have my unwritten list down to a svelte 36 ideas, the lowest that number's been since I started this writing adventure in my teen years when I would extend my arms and welcome new ideas en masse into my embrace. As for the Drawer of Shame, it isn't a drawer anymore so much as a tiny plot of real estate, a way station for old friends to congregate for just a little while longer. Next year at this time, my hope is that not a single of my stories will be on that side of the drawer. They'll all have gotten their happy endings.

2 comments:

  1. I have every confidence that you will achieve this goal - possibly even surpass it. You reign supreme, my friend.

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