Gone but not forgotten

Occasionally I give up on a passage in progress, whether it’s a phrase that popped out in an instant or a chapter fussed over for weeks. Beyond all quibble, it is too wrong to revise, too graceless to polish. The decent thing is to destroy it.

Today, computer-conscious if not altogether computer-literate, I delete. And my deletes are oaken stakes, silver bullets. A jettisoned file is gone forever.

Yes, I know about un-do features and file-recovery programs, but I don’t use them. Once I delete a passage, I feel a moral obligation to leave the beast in the grave.

Here now, a mystery.

I recall that, in the old days, I destroyed by ripping the page from the typewriter, crumpling it, and tossing it into a wastebasket. Eventually, the basket would be emptied and its contents burned or sent to the landfill. Between the crumpling and the burning was a time — hours or weeks — during which I could upend the basket, paw through the debris, and recover a page. I don’t recall doing it often, but there were times. And I did it with no misgivings, no compunctions.

Why the difference? A reasonable explanation occurred to me the other day, but I think I deleted it.

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