Last week we had a good friend over for dinner. He is someone who I respect as a poet and person. After dinner he told us about how he and another friend had gotten together and decided to do a “burn”. It's not what you might be thinking.
He explained that they gathered their early manuscripts, notebooks, revisions and anything earlier than the last three years of writing, built a fire and then burned their work.
I asked a ton of questions like: Did they sort it? Did they read through it first? Was there any particular order to the burning? All of the answers were no. He stated that it was just a fire and two guys burning what needed to be shed.
What a concept, I thought. Especially for me who has boxes of hard copies, years of notebooks and back-up USB drives to my back-up files online. I wondered if I could do some burning.
It wasn't until I received my latest rejection letter that I put the thought into action.
What was I holding onto all this stuff for anyway? I wasn't planning to wallpaper a room with my rejection letters; they were in a box in the basement. And I am pretty sure that even if I become a bestselling writer, no one is going to buy any of my early manuscripts.
So I started the process and after three days of digging and sorting I ended up with two boxes and a milk crate full of writing. I kept the notebooks and journals from 2009 to now (seven to be exact), a couple critiques, and my very first book of poetry I wrote (in 8th grade) but everything else had to go.
My husband, Tim, was kind enough to help out by clearing a place in the snow and collecting some wood (albeit wet). I carried out the milk crate of paper and I started burning.
|Extraneous stuff that needs to go.|
We sat around the fire and put in page after page, notebook after love letter after manuscript. And it took longer than I thought. In fact we didn't even get to the other boxes.
But I can't even begin to explain the catharsis. It was even better than I had imagined. Unlike my friend, I read some stuff aloud and some quietly to myself. And though it was interesting to see where I used to be as a writer. It was amazing to realize how much I have grown as a writer.
|Aftermath of "The Burn".|
My husband said that it was a great example of living in the now. And he proceeded to gather up some old photos.
We have another burn planned. And we might make a party of it. Invite some friends, drink some wine and burn collectively.
I encourage you to give it a try. Even if it's just one page, just one sentence.