9 Notes on What to Do With Your Old Writings

by David Miller Sep 21, 2009

The author looking at old publications / notes with young assistant. Photo: Laura Bernhein

What do writers do with all their leftover notes and contributors’ copies?

1. Damn. I just built more shelves at my parents’ garage. (There are no basements in Florida.) I don’t want to leave anything here but I’m not sure what to do with my boxes of old notebooks, newspapers, journals, magazines. My first publications. What do other writers do with this stuff?

2. I collected my first crate
of this stuff in college. Early journals of creative writing, assignments from Coleman Barks’ class. Later I looked at it and thought ‘I hope nobody ever finds this.’ One day my parents asked if I could take a bunch of stuff to the landfill and I threw those early notebooks in there too. Thinking back now I should’ve burned them.

3. The family and I are heading to Patagonia in a couple months. We have a little piece of land in El Bolsón. We’re totally limited as to what we can bring down there, and for me the gear has to get packed first: tools, snowboard, wetsuits, boots, snowshoes, goggles. Maybe a few books.

4. It’s weird flipping back through some of these old notes and publications though. Some of them have aged better than I would’ve guessed. Others I can’t read. Things like this seem more about remembering where you were and what you were doing around the time you were writing them. How hard you thought it was then. And how much harder it seems now.

5. I don’t think I’d like to burn this batch of writing. Maybe something like shred it, then use as insulation for the cabin.

6. When I was first trying to get published it was like learning how to paddle. I wanted to publish so bad, and then after I finally got my first publication (It was in the Mountain Gazette), I thought, damn–you build it all up in your mind just like a rapid.

Oceana, Tallulah Gorge. Photo: Alex Harvey.

And then finally you just step up and fire that shit and once it’s over, all you want to do is run another one.

7. There was this one rapid, Oceana, on the Tallulah River. The thing dropped like 80 feet. I scouted it and couldn’t see exactly where to go, but I could definitely see where I didn’t want to go. I felt like an ant down there in the bottom of the gorge. People were watching from observation platforms hundreds of feet up the canyon walls.

8. A bro up at the Chattooga had told me “it’s good to go, just lean back when you hit the bottom.” The thing was ugly and beautiful and massive and it was time to run. A few paddle strokes then all white-out, then impact, then I rolled up.

9. You can take a picture or write a story and put it in a box, put the box up on a shelf, then take it back down (or someone else takes it back down) later. It seems anti-flow though. In the end you can’t take anything but the ride itself.

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What do you do with all your old notes and contributors copies? Let us know in the comments.

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