True fact: I rarely leave a restaurant without a box of leftovers tucked under my arm.
I’m not sorry about it, either. I never like to let food go to waste. Even if there’s only a little bit left, it’s enough to pop in an omelette, or throw on top of a pasta, right?
And isn’t that how many of us treat our writing, too?
We hate to cut stuff. We worked so hard on those bits! Surely there’s a place to use them. Into the refrigerator they go.
And if we’ve been working on something for a while—maybe it’s our first whack at a novel—we hate, hate, hate to admit that it might not be workable at all.
One more rewrite? Ten? We know we can save it!
“Waiter, bring me a box to put this messy draft of a novel in! I don’t want any of it to go to waste.”
Now listen, dear storyteller. I have news for you.
Most of our work is not our best work.
In fact, most of our actual writing labor will never see the light of day at all. And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
There's a terrific slim book about creative work called Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. It contains this statement:
The function of the overwhelming majority of your artwork is simply to teach you how to make the small fraction of your artwork that soars.
Many writers don't like hearing that. Especially if our creative refrigerators are filled with countless bits of leftovers that we just don't want to toss.
For every idea that’s a keeper, we might have twenty that we try and reject.
Our writing is not like the proverbial village of Lake Woebegone, where all the children are above average. Some of our ideas are better than others. More workable. More packed with story energy. More rich with theme and meaning. More authentic to our personal way of feeling and looking at the world.
So how do we decide? Glad you asked!
Writing is deciding. In this livestream, we talk about how to clean out the creative fridge. It’s time to sort through the leftovers and decide what to toss and what to make a meal out of!