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Clean out Your Closet: Everything Old is New Again

Updated on July 14, 2011

Writer's block may be hard to overcome, but there are ways of getting over it. Everyone gets stuck sometimes, and there are some ideas that go nowhere. However, always keep those jotted-down ideas for later, as they may come in handy when you least expect it.

Inspiration is all around us. When it strikes, a good writer will write down anything that comes to mind, hopefully before it leaves the short-term memory and gets lost before it makes it to the long-term. Some ideas may not have a place in the overall scheme of things, or they may be stubs of stories you aren't prepared to flesh out yet. Storing these away in a safe place to reference later can jump-start another project down the line. "Plot bunnies," as these are sometimes called, can provide a new angle to a piece that you believe is missing something that you just can't quite identify; they can also be good practice for writing prompts if you do not intend to take them seriously.

The metaphor of cleaning out a closet or an attic is a fitting description of what writers need to do to clear their minds and present fresh eyes to a project. Also, if you're somewhat of a pack-rat like me, you may have saved dozens of old journals and notebooks full of ideas that you haven't used yet. Sure you may find a lot of garbage, but there may also be some hidden gems in there. The feeling is akin to finding an old coat you haven't worn in a while and finding something in the pocket - it could be just an old gum wrapper or it could be something of value. Even something old can be new again, as the saying goes. This can come either in the form of recycled material or something that was once cool and has now cycled back to being retro en vogue. It may also be something you least expect; something you personally do not like may be popular with audiences, and vice versa. It's frustrating, but that's show biz (or lit biz, I suppose)!

Not all early material is good, but it's a start and could be improved upon given what you know now as opposed to back when you were first starting out. That being said, do not feel discouraged if you are forced to give up on something if you can't make it work. Use your good judgement to determine if that should be the final outcome. If that's the decision you come to, then it's just another part of the metaphor - there are some things that need to go, and that should be okay.


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