Hoarding Old Book Files

on January 10, 2012 in Misc

As I mentioned here before, for Christmas I got a new (reconditioned) computer.  You have no idea how much I really, really need it.  I mean, my old computer is  more than 10 years old and it has a huge old honkin’ monitor instead of a flat screen.  As for the operating system — it’s prehistoric.

So really it’s kinda ironic that I haven’t hooked the new one up yet.  But this is because a) the new flat screen arrived only a couple days ago since there was only so much I could carry through an airport, so something had to be shipped home; and b) I’ve got years’ and years’ worth of old files on my old computer, and I am way overdue going through them and deleting and thinning them out.

You know those TV shows that reveal sad, pathetic hoarders living on top of mountains of possessions and crap and personal treasures and trash and too many boxes and furniture and twenty or thirty feral cats and other stuff? Well, that’s how I am with my old writing files.  The rest of my home is fairly organized and clean and spacious.  But the files on my computer and on a few memory sticks and in file folders and in a few boxes are just, well… overwhelming.

So are any of you the same?   You have lots of outdated versions of your manuscripts lying around?  Gobs of outdated chapters on your C drive?  Electronic notes on characters and plots and other literary flotsam and jetsam that you wrote years ago?   Well, if you think you’re bad for clearing out your defunct literary efforts, you should see what’s on my old computer.   It ain’t pretty.

See, one of the problems I have is my historical novels and a thriller like The Compass Master called for many megabytes of research.  Sure, my book is finished  and published, and I’m readying two more novels (historicals) for publication.  And I simply don’t NEED to hold onto what must be hundreds of pages of research.  So why haven’t I let go of this stuff?

One reason might be that I’m plagued with insecurity.  What if someone challenges my authority on some facts in my books?  What if a reader questions my sources?  I mean, real historians seem to keep their bibliographies and sources for an eternity.  Maybe by doing the same for my fictional work I’m attaining a kind of legitimacy.

But that doesn’t explain the umpteen versions of old chapters of manuscripts I’ve kept.  Or the mess of odd notes to myself that I can’t understand.  Or the lists of possible names for characters.  Or the entire manuscripts I’d rather see go up in flames than ever allow them to go into print.

So anyway I’ve started clearing away some of these literary garbage piles, and you know what?  It feels good.  I feel like my brain is getting cleared out right along with my computer.  Like I’m undergoing a kind of personal feng shui and my mental energy is flowing again.  And that once I get my new computer up and online I’m gonna be SO careful what old files I load onto it.  If I ain’t sure about other files, they’re going on a memory stick which can sit in a drawer until hell freezes over.

Problems solved.

8 Responses to “Hoarding Old Book Files”

  1. Hart says:

    Oh, yeah… keep all of it. I keep telling myself as I publish, I will burn a CD with the info and then delete the rest from the computer, but as of yet, nothing is published. I keep all the drafts, all the feedback, all the research files…

    To be honest, I have tendencies toward the other kind of hoarding, too, but married someone who keeps me in check.

    Congrats on your new computer!

  2. Just hit delete – you’ll feel better. I’m brave – whenever I make changes to a manuscript, I make them right over the existing one. I also print it out about four times over the course of creation, so I never really lose the old version.

  3. Helena says:

    Hart — Well, I guess this is why God made CDs and memory sticks. Sigh. But when technology changes I’d better make sure to update my old files too, ’cause I remember floppy disks (the big, literally floppy disks) and the old stuff I lost when they became obsolete.

  4. Helena says:

    Alex – So on top of being a great blogger you’re highly organized. And yes, hard copies give me a sense of security electronic files don’t.

  5. Robert L. Read says:

    On an unrelated note…last night I started an 8-week parkour class, much as Helena did a year ago. We progressed to rules on concrete (from a crouch). I’m pretty sore today, but looking forward to mastering the skill. Like Helena, I appeared to be the older person there by at least 15 years.

  6. Helena says:

    Robert — You’re CRAZY for doing parkour! And I wasn’t just sore after my first class, my legs were in agony. But you’ll still have a blast and learn some really cool stuff, and afterwards you’ll have serious bragging rights and show-off skills. I’m kinda jealous…but not so much that I’d go through the course again. Congrats on your courage!

  7. Ciara Knight says:

    I save everything that is necessary for awhile, then I start shredding. :) I can’t stand clutter.

  8. Helena says:

    Ciara – You sound so much more organized than I am.