Should Writers Burn Their Old Stuff?
They used to say that England was a country held back by its own past. I think that can happen to writers, too.
As my flat is fast running out of storage space, I decided to do a little life-laundering and get rid of some things I was pointlessly clinging to. First out went my physical reviews – the bits of paper that my mum liked to keep, which ran to several boxes. Believe it or not, there was a time when I appeared to be functioning as some kind of a style guru for gormless magazines, and would be called up and asked what I thought about pointy shoes or retro-chic bars. I can do without keeping all that ephemeral toss.
I decided to keep my correspondence with other authors because the letters I received were often very funny. Today, I threw out all the scripts that were ever written from my books, hurled into an immense bin bag, because they were all uniformly dreadful. But now I’m in a quandary. I’ve discovered four unseen novels, all written before I ever got published, none of which are very good, and I can’t decide whether to hang onto them. My instinct tells me to dump them and grow. You can’t move on without burning a few bridges.
This will just leave the ‘other’ pile – ephemera like articles, photos, notes, comedy sketches, the kind of stuff I can’t imagine anyone being remotely interested in. I’m going crazy trying to decide what to keep – when my parents moved house they took nothing with them, even leaving behind family photos and clothing, and they said it was the best decision they ever made. Would you do the same?
Here’s one photo I may keep. It was shoved behind a set of the Arthur Mee Children’s Encyclopediae, and showed a party at Fowler Towers. I think it was quite late, which is when everyone fell over. All I remember is arguing about politics on our rainswept terrace and ruining a very nice Ozwald Boateng shirt.