We write, we collect words, we move forward. We build a portfolio word by word, piece by piece.
This time, however, let’s veer off in a new direction. Instead of thinking of our words as inviolate, start thinking of them as ephemeral. And when I say this I don’t mean our words don’t matter or they aren’t important. I mean we should recognize they come to us through an act of creation: they already exist, but we use our creativity to pull them from the ether.
To illustrate, write a paragraph or a scene or some other chunk of words. Next, destroy it. Yup. Throw it away. Delete it. Toss it in the dumpster. Light it on fire and watch the smoke wend its way back to the ether.
Why in the world would we create something just to destroy it? Because it’s an exercise in impermanence and abundance.
Buddhist Monks invest hours upon hours creating sand mandalas then ceremoniously destroy them. The intricacy, the beauty, the divine representations are swept away in one definitive action. Though I am not comparing myself to the spirituality of a Buddhist Monk, I appreciate the meaning and intent behind their action.
When we create—and then destroy—we have a concrete example of how our work is fleeting, how nothing is permanent. This helps us to appreciate what we have now, for now. We cannot write to our full potential while we fret about the past or fear the future. We can only write for now. When we live and create in the present our words will resonate with genuineness.
Destroying our words with intention helps us to feel less attached to—and enamored with—them. Be honest: back in your younger days when you wrote, you knew your prose was absolute and unequivocal genius. You believed in it. You loved it. You were certain it would endure the test of time, and the world would recognize you as a writing wunderkind. You couldn’t conceive of how editing would improve upon perfection. Have you looked at those works of pure genius lately? If you have, then you know why we cannot become enamored with our work.
By letting go and then creating more, we learn to trust that our creativity and our words are abundant. We don’t have a finite cache of words inside us which we must conserve and dole out in trickles lest the well runs dry. No. We have an abundance of words. By destroying some then writing more, we learn to believe we possess all the words we will ever need. They’ve always been there and always will be.
Finally, by mindfully tossing our work, we open our mind to editing. Think about it: isn’t editing merely throwing away the bad words—the ones we initially thought were good enough to write down—and replacing them with others? When we learn that it’s ok to destroy some words and write more, our editing prowess is heightened.
Go ahead. It’s ok. Chuck ‘em. There are always more where those came from.