We're hoping to move house so have been sifting through boxes of old papers from the attic. The question is, what to throw out, what to keep?
What's quite clear is that, without being too portentous, my boxes reveal that I am probably in the last generation of writers who will have a hand-written archive. There are literally heaps and heaps of hand-written pages of attempted novels, diaries, letters and notes for new fiction. People often ask: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? The answer is, obviously, that I was never anything else. I just always wrote something. Most of us did.
I can scarcely bear to read any of this stuff. I don't know when I ever will. It's not terribly momentous. When I started to find a voice and know what I wanted to write and how I wanted to write it, everything changed. My notes became more organised, the writing was filed and type-written - and then word-processed. Now most of the writing process is in files on the computer. But not the notes. I still have notebooks.
And letters. How precious they have become. Not necessarily because they are from grandparents who are no longer living, or show old friendships or love affairs, but because they are hand-written letters. Such rarities now.
So the net result of all this is that nothing is thrown out except old printed versions of novels which are now, thank heavens, in print; a mountain of type-script which can be resurrected from my computer if need be. But the piles of hand-written stuff are stowed back in their boxes (with dust and wood-lice removed), to be unearthed in another decade or so, probably, and looked at with even more exasperation and disdain because I simply haven't found the will power to get rid.