Creative Destruction

A dustbin, yesterday.
Eagle-eyed readers of this blog may have spotted that bits of it vanish from time to time.  I do hate clutter, so I have a habit of going through my books and belongings every so often and chucking out the stuff that I don't feel I need any more.  This periodic cull makes sense in the real world, since I have a smallish house that would soon be stuffed to the eaves with books and paper if I didn't keep it pretty ruthlessly under control.  And while I suspect that there's not really any danger of me actually filling up the internet, old habits die hard, so I like to scroll down this blog every six weeks or so and delete anything that I no longer 'know to be useful or feel to be beautiful', (to quote William Morris, though if that was really his attitude it's hard to see how all those hideous wallpaper designs survived).  There are a few old pieces which I'm fond of for one reason or another, and book and film reviews seem worth keeping for a while, but I can't believe that anybody's interested now in my witterings about the UK elections (if they ever were) so out they've gone.  I stand by the spirit of my piece on steampunk ('combining elements of the past and the future to create something that's not quite as good as either'*) but the writing was shabby, so to blazes with it, along with the piece on Hollywood's treatment of books.  Stuff about Christmas, New Year and the Big Freeze seems old hat in this sweltering summer, so bang, bang, bang goes the 'delete' button and each is whisked away.  They all survive, presumably, as data ghosts in odd nooks and crannies of the internet, but I'd have no idea how to retrieve them even if I wanted to; to me they are out of sight, out of mind, and good bloomin' riddance**.

I actually find it quite enjoyable, this casting off of the old.  It's something that I've practised since my college days, when frequent moves from one bedsit to another made it difficult to hang on to anything but absolute favourites.  I do sometimes wish I'd kept a sketchbook or two from those days, or the set of illustrations based on Jabberwocky that I laboured over through one entire summer holiday, but I don't suppose they were actually half as good as I remember, and think of the space they'd take up.

The same applies to all the short stories I wrote in those days (when I started at art college I set myself the challenge of writing one story a week, and kept it up for most of my first year): it was the writing that was important, not the ropey, derivative, finished articles.  I can remember the rare good ideas, and now and again I'll retrieve one and use it.  The rest is better as landfill, or ash, or whatever form those heaps of scribbly notebooks ended up in.

A few years ago a fellow author e-mailed to tell me that he'd just presented all his manuscripts and working drafts to a university, and received a sizeable tax rebate in exchange.  As I read his message I was aware of smoke drifting past the windows, coming from the large bonfire in the garden where I'd just set light to all the longhand drafts and early typescripts of Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold.  'Oops', I thought.  But not for very long.  The thing about working drafts is that I don't want other people reading them; I'd hate the idea of them being preserved in a collection somewhere.  Mortal Engines is the thing you can (hopefully) find on the shelves of your local bookshop or library, or (soon) download as an e-book.  The page-upon-page of wrong turnings and blind alleys which went into its creation were only clutter.  Far better to throw them away, and press on to the next project***.

* As The Mighty Boosh once said, in a slightly different context.

**Needless to say, none of this slash'n'burn stuff will be going on over at The Solitary Bee, where all the posts will be archived and kept for Ever and Ever.  Of course, a lot of the articles there are not by me, so I don't feel the same urge to his cmd A delete.  If you've not already seen it, click on the link to read Philip Womack's piece on Sonic Youth, Jeremy Levett's film reviews and Justin Hill's account of life in Thailand.  I hope there will be more from all of them, and from new contributors, soon.

***In keeping with this spirit, this post will probably be deleted in a week or two.