Moments In Writing: Knowing When to Let Go

Moments in writing... Good, bad, disappointing, strange, enlightening, frustrating... All of the above.

A moment in writing is a blip in the process. A stand-out. Maybe a sentence, a word, a paragraph, a thought... An obviously different instance that sets itself apart from any other point in time.

I hope to have a lot of these posts going forward. My intention with each Moments In Writing post, will be to acknowledge honest moments in writing: Things I've experienced. Stand-out moments that make writing an art. The moments that bring an unparalleled form of mental exploration. The moments we must remember to become better writers and better humans.

Today's moment: knowing when to let go and abandon a gem.

Here's the tricky part... In this case, it's more difficult than usual to identify the moment. You won't consciously know when the kindling catches fire. You'll feel the heat, then see the spark in hindsight. Usually because your "kindling" contained something that you original thought was a moment, a gem; Something great. Something to hold on to

Unfortunately, it's hard to be patient. You must let the flame build. Let the fire work itself out. It will come to you (the writing, not the fire, of course). You can't throw a giant log in the fire before there actually is a fire. And kindling is not kindling without a flame. Thus, every word, sentence, paragraph, and thought must contribute to the overall product. Fuel the fire, don't weaken it.

This is when you need to know when to let go.

I often find myself holding onto a specific sentence. "Man, I really like that sentence. I'll work around it." You think you have a gem. There it is. That's going to be the starlet in this piece. The outlier. But does it improve your piece as a whole? Did you write the sentence a few days prior and then force it into a paragraph? Don't toss a log on a cool, dry bed of twigs. Logs are great, but only when the fire is already roaring. Kindling gets the fire started, but the logs create an intense heat, a glow, and eventually, an unusable aftermath. When the ashes cool, that specific flame is done forever.

My advice: don't be afraid to move things to the side. What seems to be a gem might just be a distraction, but distractions are not useless... A distraction is only useless in a specific moment in time. Not forever. So keep your thoughts. Keep your words. Keep your sentences. Keep your gems. Just move them to the side if you question their place in your writing. They'll find somewhere to resonate, even if it's solely in your head.

Be patient, also. If you have a great sentence, keep going. Move away from it. The second you move away from your last gem, you're one step closer to your next gem. So keep moving. Don't get hung up on something you like. Know that you need to let go to conclude your piece.

Then, as you continue to write, you'll gain a true assessment of your "gem." Maybe it's not a gem at all. The best part, letting go of what seems to be greatness allows true greatness to prosper in the shadows. Too much sunlight kills the plants. So knowing when to let go lies in never holding on in the first place. Don't grasp, just drop things. Drop thoughts on paper. Lay your thoughts out as puzzle pieces, then assemble. Not every piece is going to fit. In the midst of all the craziness in your brain, however, there's a beautiful portrait to be found. It's simply a matter of using the right pieces.

 

Be Patient, Keep Writing,
Brian