I don’t know if every writer has this problem, but I have a tough time throwing away old work. Because I might need it one day. Can my imagination really last forever? I mean, the ideas I had back when my mind was still forming might be worth something, right? Which brings me to high school. And college. And all the years after that. And the eight plastic tubs that I’ve got stacked in my living room closet that contain mounds and mounds of my formative work. (Based on the contents of my tubs, apparently I consider my formative work to be anything I created after third grade and before eight months ago.) Oh, my tubs. They contain so much.
About a month ago I got an email that caused me to reevaluate those tubs and their contents. I was asked if I had any work (of the embarrassing variety) that I wanted to share with the general public. I was asked to read this regrettable work at the Swedish American Hall alongside other writers who rent space at the San Francisco Writers’ Grotto. The event was called: Regreturature: An Evening of Readings That Probably Shouldn’t See the Light of Day. And I agreed. I don’t want to admit how many hours I spent digging through my high school and college writings. Was I embarrassed by what I found? Maybe. But I was also incredibly happy that I wrote so much.
I wrote about everything. (Even my parakeet. She was such a fantastic bird!) Not only did I write about everything, I censored nothing. A lot of what I found were poems that I turned in for peer critiques. I must have been insane. When it came to the sestina I gave them way too much. Let’s just say that sophomore year I was into full-frontal honesty. Okay. This is surprising because I’m afraid of so many things. (Bears especially) And yet I look so fearless on the page. I basically handed over my heart. In letters. In school assignments. In journals. In Valentines. In doodles. I haven’t read my regrettable work at the Swedish American Hall yet. That happens April 7th. But the process of combing through my old work made me wonder, what is regrettable work?
Sifting through my tubs I found a lot of things that made me cringe. (Here are two lines from a love poem I wrote to a boyfriend: You give me love by teaspoon, when I want it to be poured. Too often I'm left unfulfilled. Too soon am I ignored.) Regrettable? Hmm. I’m glad I wrote them. At least I think I am. I must be, right? Because I’ve kept eight tubs of that stuff.
What do you guys think? Is there such a thing as regrettable work? I worry that if I believed that one day I might regret my work in the future (this postulation feels very Marty McFly to me) that I wouldn’t have written it. This goes out to everybody, young and not young.
Do you fear writing regrettable work? What would make that work regrettable?
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