The Writing Process: Letting Go

There comes a time in every writer's life when she or he must let go.  Most likely, it will be letting go of the work, sending it out into the world to find its own way.  But it might also involve letting go of something such as a preconceived notion, a story idea, or the way you think your plot should go.

But we'll talk about those in a minute.  First, let me tell you a couple stories.



When you have an experience of deeply, truly, and spontaneously letting go, it is incredibly profound.  This has happened to me twice.  The first time I was a tubby, relatively new mother worried about my weight.  I worried and obsessed and thought about it constantly.  Until one day when I was standing in the kitchen, having just taken on a huge volunteer position, and I realized that indeed, I might be a bit overweight, but at the moment I simply didn't have time to worry about it any more. 


And so I didn't.  And of course, you know what happened.  I lost weight effortlessly.  Believe me, I've been trying to reproduce this moment ever since.

The second time it happened, I'd been worrying and obsessing and thinking about a relationship with a friend.  Until finally I had a phone conversation with said friend and upon hanging up the phone, I literally sensed a gaggle of crows lifting my cares about the relationship away. The relationship changed for the better after that.

Once you've experienced such moments of letting go, you really want to reproduce them.  Because they are magical.  And suddenly when you don't worry or obsess any more, life is easier.  It flows.

But here's the catch: grasping and being desperate to let go simply doesn't work. 

It is one of the great paradoxes in life.  The more you seek to let go of something, the more it hangs around.

Sigh.  This is why I'm not cut out to be a Buddhist.

However, I have also learned that while the big, sexy, glamorous instances of letting go are the ones we tend to remember, you can also experience smaller moments of release that are no less profound.  And these, my friends, you can work toward.


By announcing your intention to let go.  And then returning to this intention over and over again, in a nice, gentle way, until one day whatever it is you wanted to release is actually gone.

Let's go back to applying this to writing, specifically, the instances I mentioned a the beginning of this long slog of a post:

Preconceived notion

Sometimes you might have a very set idea of how something is going to work in your story.  Only then it doesn't.  And if you keep trying to force it, you deaden the work.  Or, at the very least, you prevent yourself from finding ways to make something else work.  An example might be when a new character walks on.  I love when this happens, but it can be disconcerting.  How does this new character affect all the other characters?  Recasting relationships can create a lot of work.  And perhaps you resist it. Don't.  Let it go.

Story idea

Perhaps you have a story idea that simply isn't working that you are holding onto.  Is it time to let go of it?  I had two false starts on novels before I began the one I'm currently working on (and falling more and more in love with as I go.) It took a lot to admit the ideas weren't working.  But this weekend I opened the file for one of the novels and could immediately tell how awkward it sounded.  If I hadn't let go, I wouldn't be happily working on my current novel.

The way you think your plot should go

Sometimes you want to force your plot to go in one direction and it just doesn't work.  Release your grip on the story and be open to something new and different and see what happens.

Sending your work into the world

Heeheehee.  I'm laughing because I know how difficult this one is, and I struggle with it too.  It's like sending your baby to kindergarten.  You want all the conditions to be perfect before you do.  But hey, guess what?  The conditions are never going to be perfect.  This is not to say that you shouldn't polish your work, because you should.  But there comes a time when you must let it go out into the world to find its way, just like your children.


*Create a successful, inspired writing life: Look at what you're working on.  Do any of these apply to you?  Do you have an article, a query, or a proposal that needs to get out of your desk drawer and into the world?  Go send it out.

**I'd love to hear how this applies to you.  Have you had any experiences of letting go?

***I'd also love to have you on my mailing list!  Sign up in the form to the right and get a subscription to my bi-weekly newsletter, The Abundant Writer, and an Ebook on creating a vision board for your book.

Photo by ibm4381.

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