We’re having leftovers today, k?


If you’re like me (and you are), you do too much research and have a lot of material you don’t use. And this is true of most of your writing, but especially long-form: reports, briefs, books, and presentations.

And there’s nothing wrong with this.

Question is, what do you do with the stuff you don’t use?

Do you save it to another file, in case you might need it later? Do you throw out the content but save the citations or links? Do you delete everything and not give it another thought?

What do I do? I set up a folder for each chapter or section of the work-in progress and put unused notes and my first attempts to write something in that folder. I call the folder “leftovers.”

I call it that because it reminds me of how good leftovers are the next day when you’re scrounging for something to eat in the fridge. It may be cold, but there’s nothing like day-old pizza or chicken or hamburgers, yes?

Great, now I’m getting hungry.

Anyway, call this folder whatever you like: notes, ideas, unused, snippets, research, drafts. I’m sticking with leftovers.

But here’s the thing.

While I offload anything I don’t use to this folder, I hardly ever look at what’s inside this folder.

That sounds dumb, doesn’t it? Then why do you save this stuff?

Because the point isn’t just to have a folder of unused bits-and-pieces I can go back to if necessary, and occasionally it is, it is to give me a place to put things I’m not sure about while I’m in the process of writing.

I might need this or want that; let’s put it in a safe place for now and I can decide later, my brain says.

It allows me to stay in a state of flow and write the first draft quickly, without looking over my own shoulder, thinking about how and when I might use one of these gems.

It’s all about the speed.

Yes, there are times when I realize that what I’m about to move to the leftover folder is something I will need or can use in something else I’m writing, or soon will. I put these elsewhere. No, I don’t have a name for this place. I’m open to suggestions.

Anyway, that’s what I do, and it works for me. What do you do?

Actually, I don’t have time to chat. We had pizza last night and it’s almost time for lunch.