In this lovely essay at The Millions, Aidan Ryan explores his editing process, and the abandoned, unused writing that he’s accumulated and compiled into a “Miscellaneous” document over the years. Ryan shares inspiring examples of how authors write, build their worlds and the stories of their lives, and continue to draw from and tap into existing work as if dipping into a vat of bread starter. In an anecdote about playing with Legos as a child, he beautifully describes how he liked to tell stories with all of his toys and figurines, from different universes — “I was only interested in the story of everything.” This sentiment is reflected in his insights on writing and editing, but also waiting — the act of putting language aside, but still keeping it close, so that “everything remain[s] possible.”

I think about a folder in the cloud, the one called “Writing.” And the folders within it, branching universes: “Poems” and “Essays,” and within that “Outtakes,” and within that the file called “Miscellaneous,” now over a hundred pages. And I think of the stories that as a child I told and retold in bright plastic—before I found a world of words that I never had to pack away.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.