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Amanda Coetzee

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Should old writing stay in the drawer?

Most of us did not begin as fully formed writers. Instead we grew, developed and hopefully improved along the years, so where does that leave our earlier writing?

Do I really want to haul out my angry young woman novel that I wrote in my early twenties now that I am a married woman in my ever disappearing forties? It’s not that I am not proud of the writing, raw and dramatic though it may be, It’s just that I don’t see the world the same way. It feels a little like looking through my old photographs and loving the nostalgia of my dodgy hairstyles and fashion choices and recognizing their authenticity, without wanting that horrendous eighties perm again!

Am I the only writer that tried out Romance before finding my groove? Most people who know me will accept that as a reasonable detour as I remain a hopeless romantic. Still after nearly sixteen years of marriage and the sometimes traumatic events that make up a life together, I might be less about the happy ending and more about the journey that comes after. Do I still believe in forever love, absolutely, do I still want to share my innermost feelings with the world and present it in saccharine wrapping? Not so much.

So where does that leave the writing in the drawer, or work backed up on a file and saved under ‘do not reveal’? In my case I often find shades of previous writing in my current work. The diaphanous shifts worn by members of the cult Connect, in Flaming June, were once part of a fantasy novel I wrote called… Well I think that might be enough about that particular piece of work, but perhaps therein lies the answer.

The moments of promise, the phrases that still resonate find their way in to my writing, like fragments from a forgotten dream. I believed in magic and feared the dark and my writing still explores those themes, albeit from a hopefully better crafted perspective. Would I publish my earlier manuscripts, unlikely. Would I revisit, rewrite and use them as source material for new work? Why wouldn’t I?

So dust it off, cringe, laugh, burn a little with pride at the you before a million rejection letters and see what treasures you uncover.

You just may be inspired.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    July 18th, 2013 @21:18 #

    Nice piece, Amanda. I'm a great believer in recycling what's in those drawers. They might not be publishable, but they can be cut up and quilted into new projects.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    July 19th, 2013 @09:30 #

    Have done some wincing of late as I went through my early writing, so this made me laugh.

  • Maire
    July 20th, 2013 @00:07 #

    I like the idea of hanging onto it all. Sandra Cisneros talks of her buttons:
    Rat-pack me says keep it all and enjoy the odd rummage through past writing.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">tiah</a>
    July 20th, 2013 @18:10 #

    I cannibalise some old works. Typically the actual original cannot be salvaged, but there were good ideas or scenes that incorporated into the new fit perfectly. Or cut up old novels and remove the single piece that might make a nice short story.

    Then there are random threads of ideas that never became anything. I keep them around in case a new story reaches for them.


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