“The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend.” ~Isaac Bashevis Singer
I would actually give this quote a follow-up quote from myself. The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend, and a writer is a tree’s worst enemy. As someone on the cusp of completely scraping (well, not scrapping in the literal sense, as I imagine I’ll probably never physically throw them away) over 200 pages of typed work and over 100 pages of written work to start over again, I really have to appreciate this quote. It’s a simple phrase, but it says so much, and I think it really reminds a writer not to be afraid of just crumpling up a piece of poorly written work, tossing it in the bin, and starting over. So long as you do actually start over and keep striving until it’s just right…or pretty damn close, anyway, too.
I’ve got to imagine that the write who can get his work down perfectly the first time is pretty rare. So there’s nothing wrong in being dissatisfied with something, ripping it out of the notebook, and trying it again. In fact, that’s all part of the process, to help build and develop, discover what works and do more of that, and also discover what isn’t nearly as successful and avoid repeating it in future pages.
Another way I know I could look at it is that a wastebasket is an author’s best friend because, if you don’t use it, you end up like me, with a great big pile of discarded work that you can’t quite yet say goodbye to. When the pile of discarded words and papers and magazines reaches heights greater than myself, though, then maybe I’ll have to take Singer’s advice.
Do you tend to utilize your writer’s wastebasket often? I know I’ve always been a big advocate of just writing, writing, writing, even if it’s not very good writing, but eventually you get to the point where you have to evaluate that writing and decide whether it goes in the bin or it goes to the red pen. Lately, I’ve been at that point where I’m cleaning house a little, figuring out what’s been working out of all the stuff I’ve been, writing, writing, writing, and figuring out how to polish it up and make it good. And once that wastebasket has been filled up, it’s time to empty it out again and go back to writing, writing, writing until it’s stuffed to the brim once more.
And then maybe there will be a few pages here and there that succeed in staying out.