A few weeks ago, I had a piece published in a weekend supplement. It was a good story, about whether it’s better to live in the city or the country. I enjoyed the interviews, I enjoyed writing the story, it looked great in print.
Today I realised that I don’t have a copy of that story. Any more than I have a copy of the 80 million (round figure) other stories I’ve written over the past 20 years. Oh, I have some. My filing cabinet bulges with bits and pieces, including the article I wrote about the time Mr10’s favourite teddy went to bear hospital (he was two at the time, and it remains one of my favourite stories ever). I still have the first travel article I ever wrote, when I was working at Homes & Gardens in London and they sent me to stay in a six-star honest-to-goodness castle in Ireland. I have some of my best work from CLEO, buried at the back where my boys won’t see it until they are much, much older.
But so much of my work is not there.
Partly, it’s practicality. My study would look like something out of Hoarders if I’d kept every word I’d ever written.
Partly, it’s pure laziness. I used to keep entire magazines, convinced I would clip my articles from them and file them in folders and… yeah, that never happened.
Partly, I think, it’s pragmatism. Freelancing is as much about relationships as it is about clippings. It’s word-of-mouth recommendations and references. Never, ever underestimate the importance of maintaining those relationships and never, ever forget that the industry is small, and people tend to move around a lot – carrying their impressions of you wherever you go.
I don’t tend to read my stories again once they’re in print. I’m too squeamish. All I see are the bits I could have done better.
And so I throw them away. All those words. Those sweated over, sworn over words.
And then I start the next one.
In an ideal world, I would have all of my clippings, at my fingertips, filed on my website. (And you should definitely do as I say, not as I do.)
But for now, if anyone has a copy of that Sunday Style story, please send it my way…