Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Art of Letting Go

This year I let go of a lot of things.

My dining room table, for example. Also, I gave away the things that I recorded here, dutifully, for tax purposes. I just now read over the list and realize that I don't miss any of these items...except maybe the glass cheese plate?

A few weeks ago we hosted a party and it would've been nice to have that cheese plate. But oh well. We made do with another serving dish.

Shedding stuff from my house had a weird ripple effect. Once you shine a spotlight on things you've had for years and ask yourself: Do I need this? Do I want it? Really?

You might find that everything, potentially, is a candidate for the recycle bin.

For most of the year I was working on a stubbornly resistant revision. This was a book I had completely revised at least four times and for whatever reason couldn't walk away from and move on to other projects and so decided to tackle it again. There was a certain moment in the process where I broke through, a weird combination of pushing and letting go in which I shed all of my old versions, literally shoving the printed off manuscripts aside and starting on a blank sheet from page one.

But the real breakthrough was letting go of the weight of expectations, the perfectionism to "get it right" this time. I stopped caring about publication. I stopped caring if another human would ever read the story. The book became, instead, my own quest to figure out a puzzle:

What was this story about at the core of it? What was its hold on me in the first place? Why was it so important that I had to keep returning to it over and over again for the past thirteen years?

To answer these questions I had to tunnel into the past, face crap I thought I'd shed years ago, examine it again, and finally finally

cart it off to the metaphorical Goodwill in my brain and let it go.

I wrote the book but haven't found a publishing home for it, which in the past, would've made me frustrated and depressed. But here's a funny thing: I've let go of those feelings and the anxious manic pressure to achieve goals that are beyond my control.

My house is a radically different house from the one I lived in a year ago. I have books on my shelves that I love, pictures on the walls that my husband and I took ourselves. Furniture that he made (Did I ever tell you, faithful blog readers, that my husband is an artist too?)

I've started working on a new novel.

It's a messy draft, with numerous plot holes and inconsistent characters. I haven't been able to figure it out yet. There are no guarantees that when I do, I will be able to sell it. Each morning I head upstairs to my newly arranged office, surrounded by things that I love, and get to work.


  1. I join you, Jody, in getting rid of the clutter in my home, my job, my mind. As I do, I try to eat more greenly, live more healthfully, reminding myself that "a poor nomad is a pure nomad."
    Keith Lindsey

  2. LOVE that Emerson quote. And I'm totally with you on letting go of goals beyond your own control. Happy New Year, Jody!

  3. I, too, have been letting go of many things. Slowly, but surely.
    Happy New Year!