On Reflecting on My Writing Again

One of the things I have done with my writing is to collect it. That is, I keep copies of the things that I have written, many of which are gathered into large computer files and arranged by genre and chronology. There are reasons beyond the narcissism I believe endemic to all who will write–or draw, or paint, or perform in any way they seek to have others see and appreciate–for me to do so. Having a perspective on how my writing has changed since the earliest pieces I have in the collection–early in my life as an undergraduate English major–helps. Having a record of ideas I’ve treated and might return to (although that happens but rarely, to be sure) also helps. Less helpful but quietly comforting is the idea that there is more to what I have done than many or most will know, that there are secrets not kept out of shame but to have something special that might somehow, sometime be of value to some others. And the idea that I am leaving a record for Ms. 8 (and perhaps others) has its attractions for me, the more so since my journal-writing seems long since to have lapsed, and I am not at all sure that it will begin again.

As I was updating the file recently, though, and reading over the comments I have left about each of the pieces I’ve put in it, I was reminded that the collection is a collection of failure. Each piece in it is one that I either wrote for a class and never revised and resubmitted, so that I failed to follow up on ideas, or it was one that I sent out for publication and failed to put into print–even print with so low an entry barrier as this webspace. However I might have felt about what I wrote when I wrote it, however wrong I think the selectors were who chose other pieces to take up than mine, the collected writing I have gathered over some years now–and I’ve been working on the project intermittently for quite a while–is a record of failure, yet one more such for me, and one that I have put together myself–even if I did not think that was what I was doing when I was doing it.

As with the other records of my failures, though, that of my failed publications will likely remain with me. Part goes to my bibliophilic tendencies; I keep text. Also, again, I do occasionally pull older ideas and rework them. Too, Ms. 8 may someday be interested in reading what I’ve written, or my wife might, or someone else who decides they give something that resembles a damn might. And I admit to no small degree of automasochism; I tend to flagellate myself with reminders of my failings, not to spur me to later success (clearly), but because…well, I’m actually not sure why. But I know I keep doing it, over and over again.

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