Let’s skip the introduction to this topic and pass straight to the benefits of cleaning your writing folder:
- You will be able to track your writing progress through the years.
- You will understand what is your preferred genre.
- You will get an idea in which direction your future writing might go.
- You will learn which works are the most important to you.
- You will learn which works can be continued, reused or discarded.
- You will understand why it’s ok to finish just a percentage of what you started.
- You will declutter your mind.
- Your to-write list will become shorter and easier to tackle.
Here is how to prepare for cleaning your writing older:
- Step 1: be patient! Cleaning your writing folder, especially if you have hundreds of poorly named files that you haven’t touched for years, can be a daunting task! Don’t expect that you can clean it all in one sitting! A realistic goal is 2 weeks.
- Step 2: have a loving attitude towards your past writer self and the work they created. Remember that you wouldn’t be here where you are now without them and their works. Don’t beat yourself for having had a poor style or having lacked persistence. Instead, embrace your writing past, learn the lessons it brings you and try to make out of it as much as you can!
- Step 3: understand that cleaning your writing folder might change you. E.g. you might want to start writing in a different genre or drastically shorten the length of your stories. That’s ok. Listen to your heart and go with the flow! When you write what you truly want to write, writing will be easier and more enjoyable!
- Step 4: realize that cleaning your writing folder is like gold panning: you’ll want to keep the gold and discard the dirt. Don’t feel bad about throwing away stones and debris.
Once you’ve prepared – start cleaning!
- Step 1: Create a new writing folder with subfolders clearly indicating the type of content that will be stored within. For example: novel projects, short stories, finished works, unusable writings, recycling resources. Trust your gut on this issue: if you have lots of poetry and fanfictions, obviously create folders “poetry” and “fanfictions”! Subfolders “work” and “personal” can also be useful, if you threw your diaries, letters, resumes and e-mails together with the writing.
- Step 2: Start grouping files into appropriate subfolders; you are free to begin with whichever type of writing you want, but my advice is to group finished works and current projects first, as that’s the easiest part.
- Step 3: Don’t skip your abandoned story ideas and story beginnings/endings/fragments. Be honest with yourself and decide whether you will continue the story one day. If not, you have two options: either recycle it or delete it. Be mindful, but firm when making the decision.
- Step 4: A word about recycling writing: it’s the best option if you have started lots of valuable stories but for some reason haven’t finished them and know that they don’t have enough potential to become separate books. Learn to gather similar ideas together and glue unrelated fragments. This will help you create instant, brand new short stories that you can modify, rewrite and edit. Yes, it will require work, but it’s better than starting from scratch. And you won’t feel guilty about wasting what’s already in your writing folder. Recycled stories can be used as free content or promotional material:
- Step 5: After you have finished cleaning the folders, spend some time thinking about your writing legacy. Right now you have a clear picture of what you have created throughout these years: you know what types of stories you tend to write most often (this can help you find your main genre and niche!) and how your writing improved – which is much more important than your overall word count and the finished:unfinished work ratio.
- Step 6: Re-assess your to-write list. You might have changed your priorities because you found stories that are just a paragraph away from finishing. Also, your old writings might have inspired you and now you can’t put them down. It’s ok! As long as you are focused on finishing what you’ve started, you can jump between projects without worrying.
- Step 7: Realize that if writing brought you joy and/or improved your writing skills, it had purpose. I’ve read somewhere before the sentence “not everything is meant to be published” and I couldn’t agree more. The fact that you won’t publish a fanfiction you truly loved doesn’t mean that it was pointless!
That’s more or less this: let me know in the comment section under the post how did your cleaning go and what you’ve discovered! Everyone, stay inspired!