I'm about to find out how much I have or have not missed the cold of a Massachusetts winter. The high on Sunday is projected to be in the 30's. One of the lows I saw posted on my homepage for the next week mentioned 18 degrees. Not quite the minus 18 degrees I saw when I looked at the outdoor thermometer one morning in Worcester, but low enough to make me very glad I took my heavy, ankle-length woolen coat into the cleaners at the end of last week. I dragged that coat around through all my moves since leaving Boston, only wearing it one Christmas for the annual office bash at the Sportsmen's Club while we were experiencing an abnormally strong cold snap, and on my trip up to New York for New Year's. However, since the coat was still in excellent condition, is in a style that doesn't date, and kept out most of the elements and didn't fall prey to moths, it arrived with me in Portland and will be put back into use.
Some of my clothes last many years. Others barely a season. Sometimes it pays to spend a lot of money on an item, and sometimes it doesn't. I know there's probably an analogy to life or writing in there somewhere, but I'm not going to look for it. I'm only going to congratulate myself for not throwing out my winter gear, unpack my Sorel snow boots and sub-zero gloves, and wish I had kept that brand new snow shovel I got rid of when I lost the outdoor storage in Highland Park.
Being a bit of a pack rat pays off. But you have to know where to draw the line between items that may well come in useful in the future and things that should go to another good home after a rest period in Goodwill.
Maybe that's the writing analogy--knowing when to keep and continue to work on that half-finished story you just found at the back of the filing cabinet, or when to consign it to the shredder.
When I left Highland Park, I shredded my first novel. It had resided in the bottom of the closet for years. I would never want it to see the light of day after I pass from this mortal coil, even should I become a famous writer and my children could use the money. It wasn't worth the time and energy I would have to spend researching, rewriting and cutting all those needless words. There were passages and even chapters that were salvageable, but oh, so much more that was not.
I didn't need it as a crutch anymore--I had long passed the stage when I needed to see a completed novel of mine that I could hold in my hands and marvel over--I had two published novels that are easily visible on the internet any time I want to look at them.
I didn't even hesitate as I commanded them to the shredder, except to hope that the sheer amount of pages didn't burn out the motor.