The Art of Letting Go For Writers
So, you have finished what you are working on. You have been over it and over it. And over it again. And you may not feel as though it is truly finished (is anything ever finished?), but nevertheless you need to send it off and the truth is it’s unlikely to get any ‘better.’
And yet…you just can’t let it go.
Us writers are notoriously sensitive beings. We create entire worlds, characters and scenarios out of dust. We spend months, sometimes years with these fictional people and places, keeping them close to us and only allowing small glimpses of them to slip out now and again.
This week, I sent my ‘finished’ novel to my editor. We have done the structural edit and I have worked on these changes. I have poured my heart and soul into this novel and yet I, like so many hundreds of thousands of writers out there, no matter what they are writing, have hovered over the SEND button for an interminably long time.
A fine line exists between writing for ourselves and writing for others. But I think this also goes deeper than simply sending off our writing to the various, necessary portals. After all, as American Author Annie Dillard said, How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. In other words, if we have difficulty in letting go of our work, it would follow that some difficulty also exists in holding on to emotions and ideas in other areas of our lives that we need to give flight to.
How can we be helped to let go of our work?
TRUST in your innate abilities. You are a writer. Some days it may not feel like that. Some days you may literally stare at the screen and the blank page and not feel that fuse of energy. It doesn’t matter, we all have these days and it doesn’t make us any less writers. We have put the work in, now send it out there.
Beloved children’s author E.B White once said that he felt a great responsibility in his chosen profession. A writer, he said, should ‘...tend to lift people up, not lower them down. Writers do not merely reflect and interpret life, they inform and shape life.’
If we take heed of his words, we must not underestimate the importance of them. As writers, we have a moral obligation to SHARE our work. Be custodian for your authorship and ask yourself the question (because we are, after all, not writing into a void): What am I giving people through my writing? Again, don’t belittle this. For each and every person out there who feels something, anything, as a result of reading what we have written, we have been triumphant. Our world is made up of an intricate spiderweb of cause and effect. Art reflects life itself and the ripple effects of feeling something from what one has read can travel far and wide.
Focus on exactly what it is that you are gaining by letting go. Remain mindful of the fact that when one door closes another door opens and new opportunities present themselves. It could be that an important piece of writing is coming close to being given new life or entering a new phase; that we suddenly find ourselves with time for projects we had been neglecting or simply re-focusing on the important and precious things in our lives. Ask yourself the question, by letting go, exactly how I am going to BENEFIT?
Trust + Share + Benefit
3 such small, simple words.
But believe in their power.
‘Precision, gentleness, and the ability to let go … are not something that we have to gain, but something that we could bring out, cultivate, rediscover in ourselves.’
How do you as writers accept that something is finished and allow it to be released to the world? I’d love to hear.
This is really timely for me and much appreciated today. I’ve just submitted two short stories that I’ve edited intensely over the last fortnight and they’ve both wrung me out. I knew last Friday it was time to let them go and that they were done (and good) but today I have struggled and lost my trust in them. However, I did a final check and then submitted, mainly because I hate the feeling of hanging in stasis. Sometimes I hit send because I just know it’s time to move on, other work or a rest is calling and a line has to be drawn.
That’s great Heather, really pleased you have submitted your stories. We sometimes almost go past the point of believing in them (almost like being over-tired so you don’t feel tired anymore) but we just have to remember and believe that they are GOOD and that they need to be sent out to the world! Best wishes