Growing up, whenever I would craft something with some raw material – wood, metal, leather, cloth, what have you – I always saved the scraps. “You never know,” I would reason. Maybe there would come some future project where that half-inch-wide, seven-inch-long irregular strip of hide that you cut off the edge of your project would come in handy, right?
Absurd, of course. I was burying myself in needless clutter that never got used and just took up space. But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about when you should have exactly this mentality.
You probably shouldn’t keep physical scraps, because the space they take up costs more utility than their future potential utility on a project. But some kinds of scraps take up no space at all.
When I’m writing, I’ll often take a look at a particular paragraph or sentence I’ve constructed within a larger work make a sour face. My instinct is to delete it – and I’m correct, at least insofar as I should remove it from the work. But I don’t actually delete it! I cut and paste that sentence or paragraph into a separate “scrap” document that holds all such writing.
Why? Why not just get rid of it? Well for one, the storage space necessary for text is so minimal that I could never in ten lifetimes fill it up (even if I wrote that much, storage capacity improves exponentially and my writing volume only increases linearly over time, so I’d never catch up). So it’s essentially costless to do this, unlike with those bits of metal and wood. And often, I actually do use the scraps.
I may be working on some future piece of writing and the page I didn’t like six months ago is suddenly the perfect fit with minimal changes. Or I may even just be stuck with some writer’s block and reading through old scraps will inspire me – or at least boost my confidence that I’m improving as a writer.
If you create anything, sometimes you’ll create something you don’t like. Don’t destroy it, because then you waste the effort. Instead, save it somehow – take screenshots of digital art you didn’t like before you start to change it. Keep your unpublished words somewhere. Save a copy of that audio track before you edit it to fix some mistakes or re-record it. It could be exactly the spark you need someday. You never know.