Freedom Of Giving Up

I’ve given up writing fiction. Well, I’m finally admitting to myself I gave up quite a while ago.

I had a number of short stories published many years ago, most in print publications which no longer exist. And I still have two partially written novels deep in the basement of my Word docs. The characters are no longer alive for me, although once they were so present that I could see through their eyes as well as my own.

All this time I hung on to a stack of notebooks filled with dialogue, character sketches, drawn and re-drawn place maps, plot development notes, and other fiction vitals which I never even got around to typing into my works-in-progress files. Or, more accurately, works no longer in progress. I flipped through those notebooks today while reorganizing (which I was doing to avoid an actual writing deadline) and admitted to myself my half-written novels are dead. They’ve been dead for a very long time.

I expected to feel sad. After all, my characters never got to dance through the dramas I invented for them or which, more accurately, it seemed they dictated to me. I expected to feel guilty too. In my busiest years I got up early or stayed up late to write hundreds of thousands of words, yet still didn’t have sufficient attention span or vision to finish writing those novels.

Instead I am simply relieved. The silent weight of these must-get-around-to manuscripts is gone. Once, the secret worlds of these novels accompanied me so closely I felt I was living several lives simultaneously. But no more. Time to let them go.

I dumped the books in the recycling bin without a farewell wave, not even a tang of nostalgia. Turns out the freedom to give up on projects feels liberating. I like to believe I’m making space for projects closer to my heart. I’m going to let those ideas stretch out into this new space and see what happens.

Anything you’re ready to let go?

20 thoughts on “Freedom Of Giving Up

  1. Laura, I’m wondering if we need to create community rituals
    and funerals for those creative ideas and projects that just
    never will see the light of day. Hopefully they become the soil
    that births something new and beautiful all in good time. Thanks
    for this thoughtful article. It feels like a Zen opportunity.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Think of it as pencil-sharpening exercises. It honed your writing ‘instrument’ for other forms of creativity: poetry, editorial, discussion. I’ve tried other forms of my craft and have long-dead WIPs languishing in my cupboard, carried from decade to decade, home to home. I suffer from the sunk cost fallacy with some of them, others tempt me to recycle, but I am drawn to fresher, new pieces instead. I think you’re quite correct not to apply the paddles to these declared-dead fragments.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Pencil-sharpening! What a great way to look at it Kate. It’s definitely easy to get caught in the sunk cost fallacy, which has buried many of us who think we must ignore the call of new ideas until we’ve trudged to completion on an earlier project. The creative hunger is always sniffing for the freshest impulse.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Purging is good for the soul and opens up creative space you didn’t even know was crowded until after the purge.
    For myself, I have to curb the urge to purge (love it when a rhyme comes out so naturally!) balancing the need for ‘space’ with the need to keep all those WIPs and snippets of pieces. But I’ve learned often those ‘dead’ pieces speak from the grave saying ‘now’s the time, please let me fully go.’ And while hard to let go, it feels good at the same time!
    BTW: my primary (he)art is music, so this approach applies across the board for all of us creatives.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree on the benefits of creative purging, especially as you say so well, listening for dead pieces that speak from the grave. It’s a balance. I tell writing students to keep a file of discarded bits because they may come in handy for another project but, that said, it’s ever more evident to me that creativity is a force that clogs up if we start saving “best” parts for a more worthy project or relentlessly comparing ourselves to other writers/artists/musicians.

      Good to discover your site and your music, Laura!


  4. This is tragic. It sounds like you did too much preparing, too much outlining, too much character development. For the benefit of your heirs who could be tempted to publish you posthumously if you completed anything, even badly, you should try seat of the pants writing. Place a character in a situation and see what he does, and when he trips who does he fall on. She asks, “where are you going in such a hurry. ” He says he’s going to save the world from… a paper clip shortage. If you write non-fiction well, it can easily become fiction. But anyway, forget the stacks of pens and write in blood. Splatter the day recklessly. Wandering characters can easily get into trouble. If characters are ordinary they can always get hit by a meteor, or discover while shopping at the supermarket that there’s a portal to another universe inside the frozen foods refrigerator: if the manager turns his back you can step in and travel to another star system to pick up some new cuisine for dinner. Or she’s accidentally handed a secret message intended for a spy because she’s wearing a yellow carnation that the contact was supposed to have. In your opinion, do you write badly in general?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, I’ve not quite done what you have, in that I’m not ready to bin them, but I’ve finally admitted to myself that my three (yes three!) nearly finished novels no longer interest me at all. I feel all I want to write at present is poetry and travel writing. Yes, it feels a relief, a liberation. I can leave them to gather dust in the depths of the computer. Although…I’m not quite ready to actually delete them. I know myself well enough to know I might suddenly have an idea out of the blue that would invigorate one of them.

    We shall see.


  6. Really enjoyed this- I found my fiction writing was really for me-working out issues through my characters- a healing experience…reading that you have let go of your writings makes me think perhaps you have healed those things that compelled you to write in the first place…just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That may very well be true. I suspect we’re all drawn to work on/in what we need to bring into our awareness and make more whole in ourselves. It’s a lovely thought that moving on without completing a project could be a sign of healing.


  7. If characters are ordinary they can always get hit by a meteor, or discover while shopping at the supermarket that there’s a portal to another universe inside the frozen foods refrigerator: if the manager turns his back you can step in and travel to another star system to pick up some new cuisine for dinner

    Liked by 1 person

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