So I kept those chaps. I keep all my work. Every piece I know is bad even when I'm writing through it. Every piece I think is good at the time and later want to send a personal apology letter to everyone who ever had to suffer through reading it. My personal philosophy is that on the other side of a bad piece is a good one, on the other side of a good piece is a great one. That's why I love immersive writing challenges like April's 30 Poems in 30 Days Challenge. It gets the bad ones out of the way a lot sooner, allows you to experiment, make mistakes with no pressure because everyone is just out there writing these wild poems at the same time that we don't expect to be perfect. Lightning may even strike once in that 30/30 stretch. And if I get five useful pieces out of an entire month, I'm doing pretty good. The rest go into a folder I have on my desktop called "The Bone Pile."
The Bone Pile is where all my bad poems and writing ideas go to die. And wait to be reborn. It's a cross between a graveyard and limbo. Later, I harvest "Frankenpoems" from The Bone Pile composed of phrases that are so good I can't believe I wrote them but have no place in anything else I was working on at the time. Moments of brilliance, nuggets of "oh, yeah!", and saplings of ideas that just need time to develop a bit more bark. I never throw them away because I just can't predict what I'll need later.
I always imagine that my brain is basically a cramped basement office full of filing cabinets where a little blue gnome works all day and all night and is constantly sorting, stacking, and cross-referencing information. There's a desk in the center of the room lit by one of those little industrial flex-y arm lamps and whatever piles are on the desk are part of what I'm working on currently. Hey, Sherlock Holmes has his mind palace, I've got an overworked grouchy chain-smoking blue gnome. But I never know when I'm going to need to retrieve that memory of the time I tried to send my sister to the moon via seesaw AND the random information about giant salamanders in Kyoto AND the mating habits of trolls. You just never know. It's a big job for my little blue gnome, so I help him out as best I can. That means never throwing anything away and keeping it somewhere within arms reach, even if I don't want to look at it everyday.
Another reason to keep your work, even the stuff you can't stand, is because given time, which is the BEST editor, you'll learn more about how you process information, how and in what direction your craft has developed, what you're inspired by, what you're obsessed with, and can measure your growth. Also, if you subscribe to the 10,000 hours philosophy, this is now evidence of the work you put in. So I treat older work like I might a time capsule. Here's where I was then, and yup, still obsessed with the phrase "seaworn glass," and yup, there's the Greek mythology reference, and okay, wow, I remember THAT guy. Someone recently sent me an article about going through Octavia Butler's papers and noted that she worked through several drafts of her novels and that made me feel sooooo much better. Writing is like sculpting on so many levels, and it made me feel better to know that even a master goes through the same process I do.
If you're in this art thing for the long haul, honest self-assessment is a healthy practice, but you can only do that if you save your material. So, I hope you refrain from the drastic measures of taking the proverbial match to all your bad, old, and neglected work and just create a bone pile for yourself instead!