Over this Solstice week, Emily Short is running the Bring Out Your Dead event:
Bring Out Your Dead is an event for sharing dead WIPs and experiments that you don’t expect to finish, but that you’d like to show to someone anyway. It’s a chance to cleanse your hard drive, move on from old ideas, and salvage some learning from things that didn’t work out. It’s also an opportunity for your community to learn from your mistakes — which can be just as useful as learning from a success. Ambitious follies, bizarre experiments, toys, and notions that in retrospect never had a chance — all are welcome.
I love this idea. Unfinished works are by default a private sadness, a pile of ideas and hopes and hard work that died quietly, slowly, alone. They’re often laden with feelings of inadequacy or guilt. Under normal circumstances, it seems extraordinarily self-indulgent to dump them on a general audience; when one releases unfinished works there’s generally an implicit understanding that you intend to continue developing them, that people playing the incomplete version are making an investment in a complete version.
Midsummer seems, on the face of it, like a strange time for this. To me this feels like a midwinter ritual, or a Samhain / Day of the Dead kind of thing: darkness festivals, communal acknowledgements of fear, loss, disappointment, pain. Fires to keep out the dark. Times to burn offerings to end a chapter, or to remember. Midsummer is light, celebration, dance, short nights full of stars; it is still very important that you get drunk, but for joy rather than solace.
…and this odd placement is just right, in fact. Things out of season. This is an ill star, a party for when your mood ill-fits the party. There was a midsummer night, under the hop-vines, when the beer sat bitter and, for you, the firelight and laughter only made shadows and silence. That’s failed work, misplaced hopes, the thing whose festival is never marked in the calendar because it is never born. (The best bonfires are lit with down-and-dead wood, or else accumulated garden rubbish.) At our other festivals we celebrate work that we’re happy about, that we’re proud to show off, that are successes insofar as we got the damn things out of the door.
And this is as it should be: but it obscures the other side of things, which probably represents at least as much of our creative efforts. It is important to show that all of us, even the best of us, have false starts and failures. It is healing to feel able to bring private sorrows into the light, to be seen, even as the fire takes them.