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David Arthur Walters

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Taking out My Trash
By David Arthur Walters
Posted: Saturday, September 04, 2010
Last edited: Saturday, September 04, 2010
This short story is rated "G" by the Author.
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Recent stories by David Arthur Walters
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           >> View all 156
What a writer should or should not throw away, that is the question.


"Writing is knowing what to throw away," is an old cliché. But I seldom throw anything away. If I trust my initial creative instinct, not to mention my vanity, I know I can somehow salvage almost anything I originally produced, no matter how awful or boring it may seem after I have fallen out of love with it because I grew tired of it, thought I could do better, or was just in a bad mood. Should we end a marriage or throw a baby away on a fleeting feeling, on a mere caprice? Of course not. But all too many fine manuscripts have been tossed into the fire on a whim much regretted thereafter. I once rooted around in the garbage on the curb for a manuscript I had deemed worthless the day before, as if my life depended on finding it. Never again, I told myself.

Still the critics say that a visionary artist, an artist who has a vision of what he wants to represent, should know what to keep and what to throw away, because "Sculpting is knowing what to throw away." He should have an image in mind in the first place. We would not find him scrounging around in the rubble for his Humpty Dumpty; Humpty Dumpty can never be put back together again by all the soldiers and King’s men, as every British school kid used to know - one should let it rest, start from scratch and forge another, better cannon to mount on the wall.

Now here I am trying to patch up and paste together a few paragraphs torn out of another context and pack-ratted away as miscellanea because I deemed them mistaken or superfluous to that instant occasion, yet thought they might be good somewhere else. I think I should have thrown them away - let the reader judge by this result. In fact, I believe I shall start throwing away more of my work, putting it forever out of sight if not out of mind. I think I have done too much pack-ratting and backtracking with my whole life, and, in the process, I have avoided that life which always wants something new, always wants the future goods and not the past mistakes. After all is said and done with perfection in mind, history is a mistake.

I had told myself that I trust my creative instinct and keep everything I create. But why should I not trust my destructive instinct, instead, and burn the trash instead of saving it? My old roomy saved all his junk mail in paper bags in his bedroom just in case - of what, I never knew. And now here I am, rummaging through my garbage can trying to find the life I threw away. I want to salvage the mistakes, rework them, edit them, and then maybe everything will be all right. But chasing after and trying to correct past mistakes is a dangerous process and can be an even bigger mistake: take the Second Bush War on Iraq for example - the outcome will shed some light on my dilemma, and I certainly hope I live long enough to see the light.

I suppose a sculptor should have a form in mind, to begin with, and have available a way to chisel it out of the mass. He begins with the end in mind and has a technique for getting there. There is no question, then, of what to keep and what to throw away. Discipline is required for the painstaking process of reaching a certain end. But that has not been my modus operandi; perhaps that is why I have not yet produced a great work of art or a life worth appreciating.

Every production is an essay for me; that is, an essai or 'trial.' I don’t know what I’m looking for other than something that feels good. Few of my trials have had happy results. Many starts are false and even more lay unfinished. My internal rebel insists on doing what he wants to do at any given moment - Goal? What goal? Just say "no" to goals! Whenever I have tried to have a goal I soon forgot it and wandered afar. I am always cleaning up after my inner rebel and trying to make something of his mistakes. Like this one.



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