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Leftovers

For this week’s writing challenge, shake the dust off something — a clothing item, a post draft, a toy — you haven’t touched in ages, but can’t bring yourself to throw away.

Image by Nosha (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Our closets, our storage rooms, our blog dashboards. We keep so many different spaces to hold things (old papers, unfinished stories, shoes we’ll never wear again) we rarely revisit, let alone use. Yet those semi-forgotten objects somehow still haunt us by their distant presence, their suspended state. Otherwise, wouldn’t we have gotten rid of them by now?

My biggest “leftover” is my cello.

I’d wanted to learn how to play for years, and finally took the plunge in my mid-twenties. I took lessons and practiced consistently for two years. No one walking past my window would have mistaken me for the ghost of Jacqueline du Pré, but it was fun. I was producing sounds which, to me at least, sounded beautiful, and I was also enjoying that peculiar, self-satisfied sense of pleasure one derives from being disciplined about something.

Then I moved abroad for a year. Logistically, taking the cello with me made no sense; it stayed behind. I never played it again. For years now I can’t even bring myself to open the case.

Yet I haven’t sold it off on Craigslist or donated it to a struggling school district, either. I’ve schlepped this thing through two major moves, and each time took meticulous care not to damage it. (I can’t tell if I’ve been successful — I never open the case, remember?)

This week, I invite you to be braver than me and open your cello case. Tell us about something — an object, a memory, a story — you haven’t touched in a while.

It can be an unabridged history of your Gameboy. It can be an old draft you finally get to finish. It can be a letter you could never bring yourself to send. It need not be sad — it could just as well be about the joy of rediscovery or of letting go. Non-fiction and fiction, longform and aphorism, poetry and prose — all are welcome, as long as they bring some fresh air into your attic, figuratively (or literally).

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  1. Oh I have many closet ghost the saddest being some flippers I bought with the aspiration to keep diving even away from holidays … sadly my purse did not permit it. The other are two deck chairs that I can’t use as I don’t have a garden. But I kept them (for four years now) because I know my friend would love hem. Hopefully her garden will finally be ready to house them this year

    1. I hope you’re going to expand this story into a post on your own blog! You could then make it an official challenge entry by linking it back to the challenge page.

  2. Mine is a email address, it started as a form of therapy when I lost a friend. I would write them a email and it would be as though the conversation never stopped, at first it was a way to deal with the pain, but even now i still occasionally write because there are some things I just can not say out loud, but I can write them down. It is better than letting them sit and fester inside of me becoming poison.

    1. I’m really intrigued by this “leftover” — and really hope you choose to expand it into a post on your own blog (if you do, don’t forget to link it back to this page).

  3. Wonderful challenge Ben. As for the cello? You could release it from its case and stand it in a corner of a room. I’m sure it’s a beautiful piece. I have a son’s abandoned french horn near my fireplace. Looks good. And guests even pick it up sometimes for a good laugh.

    1. I would’ve considered this option of open acceptance if it weren’t for my son. At almost 3, he’d be sure to destroy whatever’s left of that unfortunate instrument.

    1. You can either create a pingback (that is to say, copy the URL of this page and add it to your post; most people link a word or a phrase in their post). Or, just drop the URL of your post in a comment here, on the challenge page.

  4. Whoa!! I loved the idea but don’t know what to pick. my closets are full… and being the nomad I am sure I have a hundred things to pick from where

  5. This is a great prompt. Oddly enough, I was just thinking about a letter I’ve been meaning to write for years!

    Ben, is this a daily challenge? How is it different from your earlier post from this morning?

    1. We publish our Daily Prompts every day as quick fixes of inspiration for anyone who’s trying to publish a post every day, or is just feeling a bit stuck and out of inspiration.

      The weekly writing challenges, by contrast, bring together bloggers from around the community around a single theme; the longer timeframe gives people the space to write more involved and more planned posts, and also to engage more with others. That said, there’s no official requirements in terms of format for posts written in response to the challenge.

  6. I couldn’t have read this article at a better time. Mine “leftover” is my blog, I started on it a few months ago, but I let time get the best of me, Time to dust off the old drafts and revive this thing.

  7. Are we allowed to have multiple entries for the challenge? I have two posts I would like to write on this topic from pretty different perspectives. Otherwise I will just post the other at a later stage.

    1. We generally try to discourage people from linking to several posts related to one challenge — but two seems to me as still within reason, especially if there are two very distinct posts you feel like writing. Go for it!

  8. This is a fantastic idea. I’ve been thinking about some of the items i have tucked away for various reasons. Be it sentimental value, for a rainy day or whatever. There is a story behind each and every item.

      1. Last Friday was a major holiday in the US, so we thought it best to scale back on some of our posts. The photo challenge will definitely be back this coming Friday!

  9. I have an old floppy disk containing one of my earliest pieces of writing, something I now recognise as my very own fan fiction of Deltora Quest funnily enough (The Quest for the Rose of Rosdinia I called it). Who knew I wrote fan fiction when I was just ten years old!? The plot? A hand crafted rose with a gold stem and gems shaped to look like the petals is separated into individual pieces by an evil lord. They are then spread out across the land hidden from sight and causing chaos. Heroes rise up in this dark time and fight to restore the peace by finding all the missing pieces and uniting them once more to save Rosdinia! Pretty much an exact rip of the story for those who have read the series (Emily Rodda is the author).

    It’s still on that floppy disk but as technology evolved and computers were upgraded the software needed to retrieve this little piece of my writing history has become near impossible to find. It’s not as though I don’t wish to retrieve the writing from the disk or that of its companions to see what little old me had to say back when I was still learning about the basics of human life. I just know how hard it will be to do so. Still it sits in one of my drawers doing nothing, and each time I see it by accident I think, hmm maybe I could find someone to retrieve the data?

    Just yesterday I saw it again and started looking up data recovery companies that might be able to help retrieve the 1.44MB of data sitting on that little grey square ancestor of the USB. Amazing that an article about leftovers pops up in my feed the day after, maybe I should take it as a sign? I guess the three floppy disks in my drawer are my leftovers. I can’t really do anything with them if I don’t seek data recovery, and I never intend to part from them even if I don’t.

      1. No worries, Kris — thanks for noticing about the pingback, though! As an aside, I have a bunch of obsolete media storage items lying about. I suspect they’ll have to wait for some curious 25th-century archaeologists before their contents are ever seen by anyone again…

      1. Thanks friend !
        There may be ” error Http ” because many blogger has reported on their blog that they can not photograph or article posting. Hope this problem will be resolved quickly

    1. I’m not sure why the pingback won’t show, since other pingbacks have been created successfully. That said, I wouldn’t worry — since you’ve already shared your link with us as a comment, everyone still gets a chance to read your post.

  10. For some very strange reason I do not throw away old diaries/business cards or anything I took from previous employers when I departed. I never look them over, but I never throw them away either. They are neatly packed away in a closet.

  11. Ben, you are very brave to show us your cello in its unopened case. Reminds me a bit of a squirrel that has buried a nut and, although sure of its location, harbors a good deal of trepidation regarding what remains inside the shell. Is it empty? Moldy? Tasty? Won’t know unless we open it….but maybe it’s just the idea of having a nut? Then perhaps that’s all that matters….

    1. That’s a great analogy! Once you’ve invested so much mental energy into something, it’s so tough accepting it may have been for naught…

      1. To tell you the truth, it seems to me that most of life (as a human, anyway) is semi-illusory. The illusion part stems from our thinking we actually own a nut. The solid part that awaits behind the veil is the image of the nut. In time the two are united. In the meantime, we keep looking for something we can’t quite find, uncomfortably conscious that when we open the cello case, the instrument ought to be there….but maybe only its shadow remains.

  12. Interesting. I’ve been thinking about a leftover manuscript I haven’t worked on for months. I actually wrote about it before discovering this post so I guess I’ve done the assignment already. You can view it here:
    http://triciatallen.wordpress.com/2014/07/07/a-writers-manifesto-overcoming-fear-with-commitments/

    It’s amazing how many leftover ideas– potential gems– are being overridden by cobwebs in our closets. Hopefully, more of us will be brave enough to revisit them.

    Thanks for your post. And let us know when you finally start playing your cello again!

  13. Oh man… my first thought in response to the initial prompt was “My cello” That thing has joined me for cross-country moves 4 (!!!) times…. every few years I pull it out of the case, try to tune it, try to play a bit, and vow to practice more… this last usually a week or two before it gets stored back in its case (a nice, hard-sided, wheeled deal) to wait for my next bout of playing.
    What a great things to reflect on!

  14. i just did to my wardrobe. It was the hardest thing yet i realized i dint any of those clothes. I am learning to let go of the many things i hold unto yet they could benefit someone else or i could be havimh a burden lifted off me. the article so on point

  15. Mine is my Art collection from my Poetry note pad to my Guitar, my bead-work and everything that breeds life in my life is just there as a memory. I find myself swamped by my daily routine filled with career, wifely and motherly duties which i so perfect. I just can’t bring myself to opening any of those boxes, so much unfinished work I wait for inspiration to poke me but that just does not seem to happen.

  16. I wrote a post, tagged it DPchallenge, linked it to the Leftovers and put a ping back too….but I do not see my post listed in the 80 responses. Did I do anything wrong? How long does it take for a post to appear? HELP…..

    1. Hi — I’m not sure what caused the issue in the first place, but I do see your post as a pingback towards the bottom of the screen. Looking forward to read it!

      1. Thank you…I saw it. I am .Looking fwd to your reading it too. ! enjoyed responding to the prompt….it was a good one with the interpretation left to the writer. Once again thanks a ton for taking out the time to reply.

  17. i have so much in my art collection but what stands out the most is the purple diary i got as a gift from my former boss/mentor gave me a s a farewell Gift in 2010. It holds a lot of tears, falling and rising, so full of small pieces of paper that meant something at the time. it has run its cause and should have been thrown away ages ago, but i just can’t bring myself to touch it let alone open it……………………it has a lot of stories to tell

121 Responses Ready to write? To participate, publish a post on your blog that responds to the prompt. Include a pingback and we’ll list your post below. Learn More