Friday, September 14, 2012


That's what they call a pack rat's nest and collection, a midden. I have a certain amount of pack rack in me, not the least of which is that I tend to keep copies of nearly everything I've written. Boxes full of paper correspondence in the garage, old manuscripts, like that. Now, I don't print most of it out, but bundle it up every year or so on CDs. Takes a lot less space.

I don't keep a journal, save for Hallowe'en, but a lot of what I do is logged somewhere, much of it on this blog. If I exchange what I consider significant mail or email with somebody, somewhere these is a copy of it. 

This activity has pros and cons, but one of the good things is that, if I have ever been in a discussion with somebody via mail or email and there is some question about who said what, when? If I know an approximate date, I can find the discourse and review it.

Sometimes my memory isn't crystal clear, sometimes it's outright wrong, but having it written down helps. Doesn't make it any truer if it is on paper or a file I can access electronically, but it does show what actually got said, by whom. 

Writers are taught not to throw their work away. Someday, they can mine it for material, or leave it to some university after they shuffle off, and provide some desperate grad student a shot at a thesis or maybe a biography of some minor celebrity.

And it comes in handy when you are arguing about that time the doorknob broke and you can point out that you said so ...


Jim said...

And, after pointing out that you did indeed say so, and it was her who broke the doorknob...

Your old paperwork can keep you company and keep you warm, too, as you sleep on the couch!


Steve Perry said...

Oh, I learned a long time ago that being right was no defense in arguing with some people. And there have been times when I was absolutely positively certain I said something, and a pass through the records showed that I had said something else, and mea culpa.

Then again, there are times when people have gotten really pissed off at me and a review of the literature showed they were wrong.

Just because it's written down doesn't make it true -- you could write a letter home about how you were called to see President Roosevelt for a secret mission during the war. My father tells that one now.

But if you were exchanging mail with somebody and you have copies of your letters and theirs, you can point out who said what and when. Or sometimes, who *didn't* say it.

People interpret what they read and hear and see using baggage they bring to the activity, and most of us have a suitcase full of axes we feel the need to grind. In the doing of that, sometimes the sparks obscure things.

This is why I wrote my bio in third person, so a reporter could copy and paste it. Can't tell you the number of times that didn't help, and somebody doing an article made a simple factual error with the material right there in front of them.

Easy to do, I've done it myself plenty of times.

In a discussion with a long-time friend and reader once, he allowed as how one of my main characters in the Matadors had a beard. I never gave him one, doesn't say that anywhere, but that's the impression he got. That was okay -- readers are part of the equation -- but I never actually wrote that anywhere.