Heaps of Papers
Following the high of tidying all my clothes with Ruth, we moved on to the office – a room off the front hall that I’d come to loathe for its heaps of papers, the filing of which has been on my “To Do” list for going on a decade.
To say I was resistant to going through these papers would be an understatement. Sensing this, Ruth said, “Come, sit down.” She patted the sofa beside her, the sofa that Leo the Dog has appropriated in the room we now call “Leo’s Room” because it’s really become a doghouse.
I sat down beside my daughter.
Holding on to papers was holding me back.
“Tell me what’s important about these papers,” she asked.
“These represent my professional archive,” I said with defensive pride. “And all the research for my novels.” My voice wobbled. “I can’t part with my research for Elegy until it’s published,” I said. Elegy for a Girl is the novel my literary agent is shopping. “And I have all my notes for Ellen . . .” Just thinking about this work-in-progress triggers tears. I haven’t actively worked on the book in more than four years, but not a day goes by when I’m not thinking about the characters.
Gently, Ruth asked, “Have you ever thought that maybe these papers are what’s holding you back?”
Clarity flickered, like the lights before a power outage. “Maybe,” I said. Then my soul went dark. How will I know all my ideas without these papers?
While I was having my private panic attack, Ruth asked, “Is there anything here that you can’t find again?”
“I’m a digital immigrant, Ruth. I use paper.”
“How useful is the paper if you can’t find it?”
Ruth’s calm logic and kindness wore me down. I tossed multiple copies of outdated typescripts of different book-length projects into the recycling box.
“How do you feel?” she asked.
“Lighter,” I confessed.
She nodded. “What else can you recycle?”
Finding a lost typescript – and joy.
Long story short: after looking through all my notes, I found one folder containing a lost manuscript I despaired of ever finding again. I tossed most of the rest.
Ruth and I have spent over eight hours on papers alone – and we’re not done yet.
Once the initial panic of trashing papers subsided, I started to feel giddy with joy. I was now free to sit down with the most recent draft of each project without the weight of hundreds of pages of outdated ideas anchoring me in place. I can write whatever I can imagine.
“Papers are the hardest category,” she assures me.
“You have no idea,” I tell my daughter, raised in the digital age. “Paper is part of my mother tongue.”
Ruth nods. “Look what you’ve done.” She gestures at the overflowing box of discards.
I beam back at her. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
Ruth Asks: Ready to Tidy Up?
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