There’s a meme I always see out there on Facebook (and that’s the whole world, right?) that makes me crazy. It’s the often lotus-adorned command to “let it go.” Something’s happened to you, something’s bothering you, and you’re told to just let it go. As if the fact that it’s bothering you is somehow your fault, and you’re purposefully holding onto it, as if it’s a choice. And, even more insidious, as if by “letting it go” –poof! It’s gone, and so is the pain, desire, and regret.
This is something I can’t let go because it’s so deeply wrong. Not only isn’t “letting go” possible in the way it’s so often taken to mean, but it shames us in the process. Now we have two problems: that thing we “can’t let go of” and the fact that we’re somehow morally weak because we’re “letting it” bother us. Yikes!
The reason this is on my mind today is that Jennie Nash and I have just finished teaching the beta version of our online workshop based on my upcoming book, Story Genius. It was thrilling to see so many writers – both fledgling and seasoned — crack open their stories and write with such power. A few writers, however, struggled much harder than others, and when we stepped back to try to figure out why, we noticed that the biggest thing that held them back had nothing to do with their ability to write. What held them back most was what they’d already written.
We’ve all heard the adage that we should kill our darlings and we all think, “Yes, right, of course!” But what we’re envisioning is a finely wrought sentence here or there, a couple of pages that don’t work, maybe a scene. It’s hard to kill these little darlings, because they’re not only part of what we’ve written, they’re part of us. We made them, we love them. Tough as it is, however, writers do often muster the courage to hit the delete button and move on. In these cases, we know what’s good for our story. We know what must be done, and so we let it go.
But no writer ever in the history of the world thought that the darling this adage refers to might be [Read more…]