The Art of Letting Go

Photo by Jackson Simmer on Unsplash

I give up.

Finally, I can admit it. That essay I was laboring over for the past two weeks isn’t worth any more of my time. What a grueling process that was. But letting go of it feels way overdue. All those words that were like pulling teeth to fit into something worth reading I have left to fend for themselves in the cloud.

Why was it so difficult to tell myself this sounds like shite? For one thing, it had grown into several excruciating pages. That’s quite long for someone who isn’t a prolific writer yet. But I was well aware that there was only a line or two in each paragraph that I felt good about. Everything else was just filler to fluff it up into the size of a paragraph. I think the major issue is that my topic was too broad, too removed in time from my memory to produce something distinctive and worth the effort. I believed if I just kept at it, it would gel in the end and I would be able to happily push that publish button with confidence and relief.

That song started playing in my head though. Kenny Rogers was crooning into my misery that you gotta “know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away.” I knew that letting go is an important skill in living but it also holds true in writing. Even if the idea of starting from scratch on some other topic was a high hurdle to hurdle myself over added to the panic of wondering if I had any viable ideas left in me, I brandished the flag of defeat. I left that two week, fair to middling effort in the dust where it belonged. RIP.

The currently deceased essay I wanted to write was about traveling. How much I adore it. From a very early age I have been chomping at the bit to see the world. What I realized is that writing about something you love can become generic and pretty boring. It was a one note snooze song. I believe I was waiting for an underlying message to jump out at me, or some deeper thought to surface to save me from humming along to my own boredom but it never happened. I did try to broaden it out and put a philosophical spin on it such as, we are all travelers from birth. We check in, stay awhile, then check out like a hotel stay. Therefore, traveling is a journey within a journey . . . and it’s . . . good for us? Ach du liebe.

Another issue was that I recently read a book on writing which you would think would be nothing but helpful since I’m eager to improve, but it seemed to derail my typical approach to getting my thoughts onto the page. “Several Short Sentences About Writing” by Verlyn Klinkenborg is a very good book which I highly recommend, but because I was listening to Verlyn’s voice as I was trying to corral my own thoughts I found myself second guessing everything. He always seemed to be mildly disturbed by what I was writing. Granted, he had very cogent ideas to pass on to this fledgling, little nub of a writer but I found I needed to stop listening to him and myself at the same time. I needed to trust the writer within whoever she may be. I am certainly nowhere near the heart stoppingly great writers he provided by way of example but I have to believe I can get there from here. Or somewhere in the same neighborhood. Or zip code.

What a trip it’s been. I will keep at it (stumbling around while doing it does make you question why you are doing it), but I can’t not do it. There is a mysterious otherworldliness to creating that I just can’t live without.

Full disclosure. Verlyn says to tell you he had very little to do with the writing of this essay.

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Sharon Pillai

Sharon Pillai

Learning how to live. Writing helps.