After thirty years of living in our charming, leaning, creaky-floored Victorian, we’re moving on. Seattle has become too crowded for us, too busy and loud. It’s a city for younger people who don’t mind hauling groceries down the block because their parking spot vanished while they were at the store. We fell in love with the deep forests of Cooper Point, a peninsula in West Olympia, Washington, and that’s where we’re bound come May.
It’s a daunting prospect, uprooting three decades of stuff. My husband, John, is a master organizer, though. He willingly set his sights on purging our cellar. Many of his old legal briefs are boxed down there, things he wants to shred before moving on. There’s also a deep, heavy, hard to lift plastic bin full of my early short stories.
I started writing in 1985. My first efforts were dreadful, followed by many more that improved little. I look back on that time as an exercise in wrath, as I threw myself so angrily at the page. Story after story about frustrated women, trapped by their own fears and doubts, who were sometimes offered a way out only to turn their backs on a generously opened door.
I don’t know when I stopped archiving my stories. Probably when I started writing exclusively at the keyboard, not in long-hand. At that point, the computer was my storage device. Plastic tub no longer needed, thank you.
John wants to know if I’m keeping those dusty stories, or letting them go. I know I’m not hauling them seventy miles down Interstate 5 to our new home. But did I even want to take a last look before they’re gone forever?
I couldn’t bring myself to. All those stumbling sentences and dry dialogue! Pieces without arc or conclusion. Even the flattest road is more interesting. There’s enough going on the the world that makes me cringe, why cringe more?
Writers sometimes dictate that when they die, any unpublished work should be destroyed. I once thought they couldn’t stand the idea of someone loving their words, and not being able to hear praise and adulation. I think now, however, that it’s a matter of pride. Who wants his flaws exposed? Who wants her stumbling mistakes seen, pored over, discussed? Not that my work would ever be subjected to that sort of analysis, mind you. Yet the idea is unsettling.
Long story short, it’s time to move out and move one. Old prose must stay behind.