"For the most part, we, who could choose simplicity, choose complication." Anne Morrow Lindbergh from "Gift from The Sea."
JAN: No Feng Shui for me. And after spending two days and filling two trash barrels cleaning out my office, I'm officially rejecting all the de-cluttering advice out there. Sure, I feel better with the clear surface of my desk, and this rare moment in time when I actually know where everything is. But what struck me most about the project was what I couldn't throw out.
Like the aging, yellow clips of my earliest newspaper articles at The News-Tribune in Waltham. The features about a local farmstand, a minor riot in the Latino neighborhood, a bilingual program at the high school. I was 21-years old. No brilliant writing, and surely no clips I would send off as part of a packet to impress a magazine editor. Since they were followed up by more sophisticated articles in more prestigious publications, what is the possible use for them? To prove I was young once? Uninformed?
And those half-baked short stories I'll never return to?? Why can't they go in the bin? And do I really need five copies of two different versions of my very first novel that will never be sold??I have a habit of never quite cutting ties to the past. Is that what this is about? Or do I secretly think that every single poorly written sentence I've ever written is precious? Tell me guys, is this some form of egomania, a hoarding disorder, or are there useless writings or things in your files and closets that you, too, just can't throw out?
HALLIE: It is odd, what we can and can't throw out. Especially true after someone dies--I couldn't throw away my mother's eyeglasses. Bizarre.
My advice is don't throw away those early clippings. Some day you may be moved to create a memory album (would that be pathetic or what?) Looking back shows you how far you've come, something that one looses sight of in the thicket of life. Besides, the minute you throw one of those suckers away you know you'll be looking for it. I mean how much space is it taking up, really?
Who says cutting ties with the past is a good thing?
RO: I don't think it's egomania - unless you're also picking out the spot for the Jan Brogan Library. I don't have many of my old writings and newsclippings since I don't have any. OTOH, the ticket stub from the time the Knicks made it to the Finals? Got it. Any newspaper article that could turn into a storyline or character? In a bulging folder. My wedding dress? Now what the hell I am keeping that for? In a huge box under the bed, keeping the dust bunnies company.
Like Hallie, with her mom's glasses...I have my sister's handbag - phone, tic-tacs, metrocard, loosechange.
All of this stuff's important, and with the possible exception of the wedding dress, why shouldn't I keep them?
JAN: The Jan Brogan Library, You know Ro, I hadn't thought about it before, but.....
HANK: And will you carry all of our books at the JB Library? I like it. Anyway. Come visit and we'll talk about saving things. I have a file for every year called, um, "save." It has clippings, cards, photos. Photos, photos. Funny stuff. Invitations. Cartoons. Ticket stubs. Okay, and you're saying, that sounds organized. And it is. Except for all the other stuff I'm keeping thats not in the files.
The RSVP cards for my wedding. (Both weddings.) Letters from people. (On actual paper.) The scripts from the first radio stories I wrote in 1970. Every column I wrote or edited for Rolling Stone. Emmy programs from the past 25 years. Announcements of my book signings, interviews, fliers. (Maybe 2 or three of each.) My terrible effort at a first novel 15 years ago. (About a golf pro. And I don't play golf.) Test columns I wrote when I was maybe going to be an editorial writer in Atlanta. News releases I wrote for a political campaign, ("With just time for a quick corn dog, Matt headed to the...." I'm NOT kidding.) And let's not even talk about t-shirts with slogans and dates on them. Let's blog about that sometime soon.
But here's the thing. I hardly ever look at any of it. It's just--there. And it's comforting to know it's there. (A pal of mine, an author, came home to see her house burned to the ground a few years ago. Can you imagine? It makes my stomach hurt, even now, to think of it. All that remained--a box of her high-school writings and photos. The truly irreplaceable things.)
Is it a reminder, maybe, that I actually did something at some point? Which is bizarre, because it's not like I'm doing nothing now. Is it like our Ozymandias? Some desperate effort to prove we exist and are worthwhile even though someday, someone will just toss it all?
I'm still keeping it.
JAN: Yes, physical confirmation that we are living a life. And maybe just the tiniest touch of whatever human need is at the crux of that hoarding disorder.... Besides, you never know when you're going to go back to that very first novel.