Rediscovering Forgotten Writings

Was I Surprised? Why?

By Jeff Salter

This week’s topic: Have I ever been surprised when I’ve rediscovered a forgotten piece of writing?

Short answer: yeah, all the time.

In my 100+ starts, scores of partly-developed stories, and uncountable poem fragments (plus my completed 21 novels, couple of dozen short stories, and 1200 poems) I frequently come upon forgotten concept notes… or even actual manuscript starts. When that happens, I often say, “gosh, that’s a cool idea” or “hey, wish I had time to finish this one”.

Recent Example

While looking for my lost scissors, I found one just recently – Tuesday, this very week – that I’d drafted on Oct. 21 last year and somehow allowed to get mixed in with some financial paperwork and general correspondence.

This particular start is a page-and-a-half, typed single-spaced… and it “keyed” on a play on the title of a famous Alfred Hitchcock movie. From my notes therein, I can now discern that I was considering several directions and even a few different genres!

In those 630 words – of this forgotten start that I discovered this week – I had briefly considered a humorous approach, but was apparently settling in on a suspense approach instead. [Remember — I was still brainstorming at that point.] I even had some primary characters noted and a few opening scenes (roughly) outlined.

Did I remember writing it?

Not until I saw it again. But as I scanned the pages, everything came back to me quickly.

No, this is not the piece of paper I re-discovered. This happens to be a draft of a poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

A Different Tale

But let me tell you another tale of a very different sort.

I can’t recall when I re-discovered these scrawled lyrics, but they were originally inked back when we still lived in Louisiana (so, before the middle of 2006). No title and no date. Didn’t appear to be complete — just a verse and a chorus, as I recall. My name wasn’t indicated on the page, but it was clearly in my own hand.

As I re-read those lines, I thought, “hey, this is pretty durn good!”

It was only after studying it for a while that I realized it was NOT my song at all! I had written down most of the lyrics to a contemporary worship song that was being sung in our church in Bossier City. My first time to hear it, that song had impressed me greatly and I’d hurriedly scribbled down the lyrics I could remember so I could later track down the complete song. For reasons unknown to me (years later), I had still never tracked down the song… but the hand-written (partial) lyrics had somehow gravitated to my piles of “writing” stuff. [Natural enough]

So, when I stumbled upon that page with those partial lyrics – but no title and no author name – my obvious conclusion was that it was my own unfinished composition. After all, it was in MY handwriting!

Alas and alack.

That complete song (as I later tracked it down) was, Til the Storm Passes By. Though I had no familiarity with it – outside of hearing it that single time in my former church – I’ve since heard it performed (beautifully) here in my current home church in KY. [At the time of my confusion, it must be stated (in my defense) I’d only heard the song that one time! And it was years before my rediscovery of the hand-written lines.]

Here’s the Gaither song that I briefly thought – hoped – was a composition of my own. LOL

It’s obviously NOT mine, however.

The moral to this tale is: when you’re scribbling down lyrics of a beautiful song you wish to remember, be sure to add a note, “Jeff did NOT write this.” That way, years later, when you rediscover that hand-written piece of paper… you won’t have those few moments of elation that you’ve penned a best-selling song!


Have YOU ever “found” something that you’d previously written… but forgotten?

[JLS # 526]

About Jeff Salter

Currently writing romantic comedy, screwball comedy, and romantic suspense. Fourteen completed novels and four completed novellas. Working with three royalty publishers: Clean Reads, Dingbat Publishing, & TouchPoint Press/Romance. "Cowboy Out of Time" -- Apr. 2019 /// "Double Down Trouble" -- June 2018 /// "Not Easy Being Android" -- Feb. 2018 /// "Size Matters" -- Oct. 2016 /// "The Duchess of Earl" -- Jul. 2016 /// "Stuck on Cloud Eight" -- Nov. 2015 /// "Pleased to Meet Me" (novella) -- Oct. 2015 /// "One Simple Favor" (novella) -- May 2015 /// "The Ghostess & MISTER Muir" -- Oct. 2014 /// "Scratching the Seven-Month Itch" -- Sept. 2014 /// "Hid Wounded Reb" -- Aug. 2014 /// "Don't Bet On It" (novella) -- April 2014 /// "Curing the Uncommon Man-Cold -- Dec. 2013 /// "Echo Taps" (novella) -- June 2013 /// "Called To Arms Again" -- (a tribute to the greatest generation) -- May 2013 /// "Rescued By That New Guy in Town" -- Oct. 2012 /// "The Overnighter's Secrets" -- May 2012 /// Co-authored two non-fiction books about librarianship (with a royalty publisher), a chapter in another book, and an article in a specialty encyclopedia. Plus several library-related articles and reviews. Also published some 120 poems, about 150 bylined newspaper articles, and some 100 bylined photos. Worked about 30 years in librarianship. Formerly newspaper editor and photo-journalist. Decorated veteran of U.S. Air Force (including a remote ‘tour’ of duty in the Arctic … at Thule AB in N.W. Greenland). Married; father of two; grandfather of six.
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5 Responses to Rediscovering Forgotten Writings

  1. jbrayweber says:

    Beautiful song.
    I can’t say that I ever “found” something I’ve written in the past other than assignments from high school or college. I keep everything I’ve written or have “started” in a drawer. The stuff I have “found” from my school days, I will say, had impressed me. By no means were they publishable, but I thought them to be pretty good for my age, and considering I had never once fancied myself a writer, much less had dreams to become one. Who knew…? LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, you had me laugh out loud on this one, Jeff! Good thing that you didn’t try to claim this as yours, copyright infringement is serious…but I am still laughing!
    It reminds me a bit of when I had our sons’ friend in and they were playing at the piano, since they were all taking lessons from the same teacher. He was little older than my boys and when I heard “Fur Elise” coming from the living room that sounded great,I thought, “Wow! He has really been practicing!” I realized, no, that can’t be right. The HUsband had decided to inspire them when they stopped and he had put on a CD of Van Cliburn.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Patricia Kiyono says:

    Funny story! I’m glad you discovered the real source of the verses before you submitted them somewhere for publication.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jeff Salter says:

    Actually, folks, as I’ve continued to mull over this situation, I believe the song lyrics I’d scribbled down — without a title or artist (since I’d known neither at that point) — is THIS song, instead of the one by the Gaiters:


  5. Elaine Cantrell says:

    Too bad those lyrics weren’t yours, but I’m sure some of your unfinished work is just as good.


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