Throwing Away Time

My Empty StudyAfter 20 years of accumulating detritus on a ridiculously wide range of subjects, I have finally been forced to clear out my study. It’s a grim business that I’ve been postponing for months. This is my private sanctuary, the room of my own where eight books have been written, and it’s the only room where the muse strikes, since I believe a muse is nothing more than concentration, wide reading and being near the laptop at the critical moment. But the builders are arriving tomorrow so no further delay is possible. I have done mini culls before; in fact there is a sort of ritual clearance after each book is finished, putting the mounds of documents and letters into a big plastic box away in the attic hoping no one will ever ask me to search for some obscure reference. But they invariably do and it’s not fun searching on my knees in the dark and dusty attic where wasps make their nest among a different set of rafters every summer. These days there is much less paper generated per book as so much of the information comes through email and is stored on various obsolete hard disks, so why do I feel the necessity to store the old paper version at all? Is there a cut off point, say five years and then shred? But in truth it’s not just the documentation for the books that I keep…I am guilty of keeping hundreds of copies of old magazines (or I did until last week when almost all found their way into the recycling lorry). And I cannot read a newspaper without tearing out pages, half pages or just a column making it impossible for anyone else to read a newspaper if I have got there first. But the trouble with old newspaper articles is that once you have kept them for a few years they acquire a hallowed importance way beyond what is actually in the words or story so then they cannot be thrown away. Mostly these articles go into a pink box labelled: ‘Keep for the novel’. But I have not yet written a novel. Is it because I know real life is always stranger than fiction.The box is staring at me now as I type this. Perhaps this is the moment? Read More