Fresh Starts

The (sometimes treacherous) joy of deleting the past

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I love to delete things. It’s an exhilarating feeling to be able to just zap the past and make a fresh start. Years ago, I had a frustrating argument with the developer of a piece of software that I used extensively. The software automatically saved your work every few minutes. I wanted the developer to add a “Revert to last saved version” command. He didn’t get it.

“Why would you want that? All it would be good for would be throwing away all the work you’d just done. And it would be impossible to implement. Because you’d never want to throw away literally everything. So you’d need some way to determine what bits you wanted to keep and what bits you wanted to get rid of. And that would be really difficult and not worth the development time.”

Obviously, I didn’t get the command I was looking for. So, I developed the unthinking habit of hitting the Cancel button almost by reflex and ended up inadvertently throwing away a lot of work I actually want to keep. Even so, I was never able to break myself of that habit.

For the past few years, Apple’s iBooks has been my favourite ereading app. In almost every respect, it’s far superior to every other ebook reading app I’ve tried, definitely including Kindle. But it has one huge flaw. Books that you’ve bought (or downloaded free) from the iBooks store can never be deleted. You can remove a book from the device but it remains in your library in the cloud. You can hide the books in the cloud but sometimes you need to be able to see what books you have available to be downloaded but which aren’t already on your iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch. Then, you’re reminded of the books you wanted to forget about.

And we all have books like that, don’t we? Books you hated, will never finish or which we’re embarrassed about for one reason or another. If they were printed books, you could just bring them to the charity shop or sell them to a second-hand bookshop. But you can’t get rid of them that easily. They hang around forever like a bad smell. That’s one of the reasons (not the only one) why I’m giving up on ebooks. But that’s another story.

A couple of weeks ago, I wanted to try putting my stories (fiction) on Wattpad, to see If I could find a larger readership there. It would have made sense to keep them on Medium as well, to maximize their visibility. But no. With my characteristic enthusiasm for deletion, I decided that I didn’t like the idea of the same stories (textually identical but with different fonts and layout) being available in different places. It’s not easy to explain, but it felt to me as if their bilocation somehow diluted the stories and made them less effective. So, as I put the stories up on Wattpad, I deleted them from Medium.

That was, of course, a mistake. So now, I’m going to start reposting the deleted stories on Medium, starting with “Inheritance”, which was the first short story I finished and published online and is still the one of which I’m proudest. And this time, I won’t be deleting it from Wattpad. Let it have its double existence.

Written by

Writer of (mainly short) fiction, criticism/discussion and other stuff; aphantasic; antimasculine male, no pronoun preference

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