Once, a famous public intellectual/writer and her lover from Chicago came to visit in California. In preparation, I took all the paper trash to my office (a remote cabin) to burn in the woodstove. We had a wonderful vinous evening, and in the morning took a walk around our property. Overnight, my writing studio had caught fire; the windows had gone black. Of course I had my laptop, my hard drive, so it was hard to know exactly what was lost, or just charred, damaged, smoky, ruined. I had always saved everything – handwritten stuff, edited stuff, embarrassing stuff, essential stuff, prima materia, evidence. The famous public intellectual entered my smoldering den and took in the scene. “So you’ve lost all your early work,” she said. “Do you care?”
A year or so later I published my first book.