Throw it all away

One thing I hope to develop while writing for this site is the ability to produce good writing consistently. I need to develop the habit of production. Creating a system for making things is a really effective way to ensure that you don’t fall victim to any of the excuses that so often seem to plague creative people. I have confidence in my ability to write. I have less confidence in my ability to consistently generate good ideas and work them through to completion. It’s an interesting distinction.

It’s possible that because I haven’t had effective systems in place in many of my creative pursuits, I tend to hang on to ideas and pieces of work when I shouldn’t. It might explain the existential fear about letting go of any idea that I have. I’ve often acted like everything I come up with needs to be turned into something substantial because it might be the last idea I ever have. I’ve never been particularly prolific in any area either, so maybe it’s only sort of crazy. The next idea might be a while away so best to cling on to anything I have, or something like that.

A couple of days ago I finished a piece, and upon reviewing and editing it, realised that I shouldn’t publish it. I felt some unease with it while I was writing it but I figured that might fade once I finished it off and reviewed it. Instead it made it more obvious. It did not articulate my ideas effectively. It was not disciplined enough. Most crucially, it did not get to the core of the issue that I was addressing. So I’ve abandoned it. It’s still sitting in a folder somewhere in the cloud, but unless I find a new angle, that’s where it will stay.

I’d like to think it’s a sign of creative maturity that I am starting to separate myself from the things I produce. It still sucks when I have a song idea that falls flat in the band room, but not everything you come up with is going to be a winner. I bet even Jimmy Page wrote some dud riffs. Looking at your own work objectively can be difficult, but it is important. One advantage of collaboration is that someone can quickly tell you that your idea sucks, which only hurts up until you come up with something good. Editing yourself requires more discipline and focus, and the ability to listen to what your gut is telling you. My gut told me Friday’s piece was off, so I killed it. It’s hardly been the waste of time I might have feared: I learned something important and it inspired this piece.

I hope that any time you take the time out to take a look at my work that you are only seeing my strongest ideas executed as well as I can. Throwing things away means that people only have to focus their attention on the best I have to offer. I know my time is precious, and I certainly don’t want to waste a second of anyone else’s. If that means getting rid of the stuff that isn’t as good as it needs to be, so be it.