A couple of weeks ago I received an email from the photo editor at Paragraph Shorts, a digital short story magazine where I work as an editorial intern. Browsing through Flickr, an image sharing website, to look for photos to use in the magazine, she’d come across my old photography profile and wanted to feature one of my pieces in a future issue.
I laughed at first because I hadn’t looked at my photography since before coming to NYU. I didn’t mind that my photos from eleventh grade were still floating around on the Internet—in fact, I consciously didn’t delete my Flickr account after I abandoned photography. Some combination of nostalgia and an understanding that someone else might someday find value in my art kept me from sending my photos into Internet exile. I gave the photo editor the go-ahead, and now it’s possible that one of my earliest expressions of art will be published, over three years later.
As artists, we’re often tempted to disown our work, unable to look beyond its flaws, always somehow dissatisfied with the final product. We have age-old files in our hard drives that we’ll never open again. We have ink-stained journal pages that never see daylight. We have notes stored in our iPhones from late-night moments of inspiration. I have an ancient LiveJournal diary set to private—a mix of daily life complaints and stress-charged prose from middle school. We writers have entire libraries of forgotten art. The starting three lines of a poem written after a particularly pleasant walk through Washington Square. A phrase jotted down after a revelatory shower. A short story buried under old textbooks after being submitted to workshop.
When a friend of mine, an editor of the Minetta Review, asked me if I had any potential submissions, I dug through my art archives. In some cases, I closed the files immediately—too painful to revisit. But I was surprised to find some pieces I actually—dare I say it—liked. Even if we feel we’ve changed artistically since that piece written a year or more ago, it’s important to remember all the effort that first went into it. Disowning those pieces is something like disowning parts of yourself.
I texted her at 1 a.m. that night, saying I’d submitted not just to her section, but to all three: “I figured, why not?”
“Exactly—why not?” she responded.
Within our hidden libraries of abandoned pieces and forgotten projects, it’s possible to find some gems worthy of polishing and resurfacing. We didn’t create them to bury them forever.