Saturday, November 17, 2018

Number 1 Rule for Clearing Out Old Papers, Part 1

Most of the items cluttering my writing room are paper: Newspaper clippings, old magazines, marked-up manuscripts, correspondence, and samples of marketing ideas from other writers.

Magazines and newspaper clippings linger in the hope that they will give me new ideas or substantiate facts for non-fiction articles. I saved marked-up manuscripts for that impossible spare time when I could look at them to try to find a pattern in my writing problems and writing successes.

Alas, there's no room for them all anymore, so I started going through them. If I saw an idea I still wanted to explore, I either made a note of it or put the clipping in a pile of things to scan. I ruthlessly recycled all the old manuscripts; there'll never be time to go through them all, and even if there is, are the critiques still valid?

Writing styles change over time. Consider dialogue tags. The current trend seems to be to always use "said" because that word is easily ignored, thereby not distracting the reader. Yet I remember when the trend was to replace "said" with action verbs. As Kellie McGann wrote on The Writing Practice, this was due to a belief that "...people do not simply say words; rather, they whisperyell, remark, argue, and so forth. They believe that using more descriptive words paints a clearer picture for the reader."

Stoked by this new rationale for reducing my paper load, I started weeding with a vengeance. I started losing steam in my great clearout when I came down with a weird cold in August. Realizing it was an odd time of year for a cold, I started asking around. No one was coming down with colds, but a few friends had some allergy attacks because of the rain and humidity. Since I do have a minor mold allergy, I thought that was my problem: an allergic reaction to the weather.

Fast forward three months and I was still coughing. The weather had changed, so that couldn't be it. One day my spousal unit noticed I wasn't coughing, sneezing, or blowing my nose. "Yeah, I wonder what I did right," I said, thinking it had something to do with changing my regimen of cough syrups, antihistamines, and sinus rinses. It turns out that it wasn't that at all. "You weren't clearing out your papers," he said.

Whether it was mold, paper dust, old cat dander, or plain old household dust that I was exposed to, apparently I have a dust allergy. I purchased one of those ear loop masks that people in Japan tend to wear when they have a cold. It really helped! 

So that's my number one rule: If you have ANY allergies at all, or you start to come down with a "cold," try one of those masks, also called medical masks. It will make your life much easier and is much less expensive than three months of over-the-counter cold medications and doctor visits.

And if your storage area has an evidence of mice? See Part 2 of this post, coming soon.

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