I’m on a paper tear. Wait a minute, that didn’t come out right, or maybe it did. Remember that paperless office we were promised? Has it happened for you? It certainly hasn’t for me.
But, every year, I get a bit closer. I thought I might share some questions I’ve asked myself, and my answers that led me to get rid of loads of paper. As they say in the car ads, your mileage may differ.
How many pieces of paper did I have that someone else had a copy of? Out went old agendas, minutes, event copy, background papers, and outdated newsletters. There were some things that I WAS the other copy for. I bundled up loads of originals related to offices I’d once held and shipped them to the people who had those offices now. Let the stuff sit in their basements for a while.
What could the Internet replace? What was the likelihood that if I got really desperate for the price of miniature marbles, a new and exotic dessert recipe, the directions for a Hong Kong seam binding, or a list of dates related to the Arcadian derangement that I couldn’t find it on the Internet? Out went stray pieces of paper with odd factoids on them, catalogues, and back copies of magazines, which I’d hoarded for a single recipe or a sewing tip.
I did keep a one-page list of Morse code because I still intend to learn the entire alphabet one day. It’s a project I started in high school, when I was taking physics and was a member of the amateur radio club. That was in 1964. So far, I’ve learned 18 out of 26 letters, but hope does spring eternal. Only 8 more letters to go, and some of them, like X and Z are hardly ever used in Morse code messages. Oh yeah, then I have to learn numbers. Bummer.
How many outdated calendars did I need? What was the likelihood that, when a year finally came around again that matched 1995 I’d know where my 1995 calendar was, so I could use it again? Okay, so some of the pictures were really, really pretty and those I put in my paper crafting file, to use in making cards.
Then came the hard part. How much of my previous writing did I need to keep for posterity? What was the chance that I was going to become so totally famous as a writer that university libraries and literary scholars would fight for my accumulated papers? Pigs with wings came to mind.
What was the chance that I’d actually refer to this mess to find out a character’s eye color or that snappy line of dialog one character said to another 15 drafts ago? The memorable lines, I remember.
This is what I decided to keep:
• Unborn short stories. Their time may still come.
• Character development, often because somewhere in there were complicated family charts or timelines that I do use for reference.
• A final copy of each finished book. For the books that have been published, it’s my final hard copy that I marked up while proofreading before I sent the delivered manuscript to the publisher. For the unpublished books, it’s the last completed draft.
Yes, it was hard to let all of the other stuff go to the shredder. Yes, I have electronic back-ups of just about every bit of writing I discarded. No, I haven’t missed them one bit. What I’ve gained in exchange is a neater and more peaceful writing space. I am no longer irritated first thing in the morning when I see the piles of paper spilling out of filing boxes and covering my desk six inches thick. Somehow the energy flows better now that I’ve gotten rid of the paper log jam.
And I can use some of my now-free space for my new paper love, handmade cards and boxes. The photo at the right is my 2007 collection of New Years cards.
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Writing quote for the week:
Until the age of fifty, it is perfectly all right to toss aside a book you don’t like after reading fifty pages. For each year over fifty, decrease the number of required pages by one.~Nancy Pearl, Seattle's famous librarian and inspiration for the librarian action figure
Learn more about Nancy at www.nancypearl.com and go from there to Book Lust, a community for people who love books.