If I were a carpenter my workshop would be crammed full of three legged tables and boxes without drawers and skeletons without shelves. Story fragments have been dragged from computer to computer over the decades, as useless as the matching belt of a coat long ago donated to charity held on to because of a teasing dream of possibility.
The pieces written by hand don’t bother me as much as the bits stored digitally. If a character profile is in a journal, that’s how it was intended to exist. If I open a blank screen and begin to work through a scene, a character, a piece of dialogue the named file says an unfulfilled commitment exists.
Trolling through this holding place of stunted writing, I want to know why I didn’t finish each one. Maybe someday I’ll understand how the stories about chairs connect. It is my intention the magic realism piece about children who never grow older than twelve will find an ending. I’ll find a way to merge pages about feminism and motherhood. A character that shows up in multiple false starts might take form and bring thousands of words together into a wonderful piece.
In the meantime, the pressure exists to create an inventory of quality short stories to market. All those possible gems are a frustrating pile of efforts. I don’t call it a junk pile, but they are like clothes stuffed in the back of the closet that don’t fit. I go back and pick through the best, play with accessorizing, and find the same disappointment that another new approach didn’t find the sweet spot.
Maybe if I collected the digital unfinished business and stamped a tidy order around their existence I wouldn’t feel so bad. Tucked into their old virtual file they might become as harmless to my creative time as the box of miscellaneous buttons stashed in my closet is to my wardrobe.