Thursday, October 14, 2010
Shedding the Past
By Deborah Sharp
Uhff! Pant, pant, pant. Bump, bump, bump, bump, bump. Uhff! Drag. Pant. Drag. Uhff! SCORE!!!
Man, that felt good. What was that, you ask? No, fellow author and Inkspot wise guy, Keith Raffel. It's not an X-rated scene from my new erotic novel. (Reality alert: I'm a Lutheran. I can barely say the word S-E-X, let alone write an erotic novel.) Rather, it's the sound of me hefting a giant black trash bag filled with junk from my office, pushing it down the stairs, tugging it to the curb, and -- UHFF! -- tossing it into the garbage.
Okay, not really ''tossing.'' More like struggling to roll it as high as my knee, so I could boost it to chest level, then lean my whole body into the bag until it finally tumbled over the lip and into the trash can. I admit, I'm not as fit as Beth Groundwater, another fellow Midnight Ink author, and Colorado outdoors woman. Then again, it was a really, really big trash bag.
It's been almost seven years since I quit my reporter's job at USA Today to try my hand at mystery-writing. I don't know why I'd held on to so many notepads, interviews, source lists and the like. It's not like I'm going back into newspapers. Just about everybody I knew in the business has lost his or her job as print outlets continue their slow, depressing, drain-circle toward obsolescence. When's the last time you saw anybody under 45 years of age reading the daily newspaper? (I'm not talking online, where ad rates don't support the cost of news-gathering.)
I just handed in the manuscript for my fourth book in the Mace Bauer Mystery series, Mama Sees Stars. Normally, I tidy my workspace between books. But this was less tidying and more purging. Shedding my old skin. I was like a woman possessed, tossing out those yellowing file folders from long-ago news stories. Some of the reports and statistics I'd collected for articles were so old, the print on fax paper had faded to barely there. Ghost images of forgotten words.
I can't even tell you my thought process in deciding which research folders would go, and which would stay. I can tell you that watching the pile grow was satisfying. Bombings? Bye-bye. Gainesville Serial Killer? So long. Riots and Riptides? Out and out. But Seminole Indians and Santeria? Hmmmm, those two will stay; just like Moms Who Kill and Monkeys. You never can tell what kind of trouble my books' Mama character might run into in Florida. If she runs into a monkey on the loose in the Seminole casino, I'm covered.
How about you? When you shed the past, does it feel like you're betraying the person you used to be? Or, do you happily discard things you no longer use? Do you clean your office between each book or big project? Or do you put it off until you can stand the mess no longer?