On being a writer...

A celebration of the writing process, of being a writer, of all the weird things that pass through a writing brain...

Friday, 5 September 2014

Letting Go

I don’t have an answer to this one.
We are in the second tranche of house clearance – we downsized a year ago so it's time to look at all the things we should have thrown out then and decide whether they really deserve to stay.

I’ve worked out that the problem I  have with letting go is that in taking something to the charity shop I think I'm giving away more than the object itself; a whole bundle of memories.  Consider, for example, the piano stool we bought in an almost junk shop when the children took up lessons.  It’s an ordinary hollow stool with a tapestry seat that was never the right height, never comfortable, but quite useful sometimes for 'putting things in'.  It’s not an antique and it’s not beautiful but it’s so hard to let go because it's an archway to the past, and as such feels too important to part from.
Then there’s a pair of wooden exercise sandals I bought when I was a Saturday girl at Boots.  My parents hated them because they chipped paint from the skirting;  I loved them because everyone had a pair of Scholls in those days (mine were the cheaper Boots version).  Now I couldn’t possibly wear them, but I keep them because of all that they represent in terms of my fourteen year old self and her activities and taste and desires.

So how on earth do I let them go?  Reading this, the answer is obvious to me. The piano stool can go but the sandals will have to stay (until the next cull).  But what a painful process, and how pitiful, given the millions and millions of people who have nothing, or have to let go of everything, all the time.

But actually the same dilemma applies to the writing process.  Some ideas and ways of writing really really have to be let go.  I worry at them and turn them upsidedown and bash away at them, because they’ve worked in the past and they feel familiar.   And of course the whole point of practising a craft is to build on skills and tried and tested methods.   But how to create room, to be wide open, to innovate if I’m all cluttered up? 


  1. I find it hard to let go, too; you are not alone in this. So many things from my childhood, so many photos since our sons were born (they are now middle aged themselves), so many things inherited ... we have a room that needs clearing, too, but I've yet to solve the problem of how to discard objects which are not simply objects but memorials to memory.
    Margaret P

  2. Not to get too deep into a discussion about letting go, but... Because our daughter was born with severe/profound cerebral palsy, she had to be put into a home at age nine. When you "let go" of the most dear to your heart, then nothing else compares. OK, past the profound and into the lighthearted -- I find that the older I get, the more of a minimalist I become! Oh yeah!!!

  3. Thank you, Janet. A timely reminder that objects matter nothing at all compared to people. And I think I'm with you when it comes to age and minimalism!