‘Just let it go’.
That’s a pretty common expression we hear all the time, right? Usually said in that casual way, as though ‘letting go’ were the easiest thing in the world to do.
Even the wording intimates it’s an easy thing to do, stoking images of a simple relaxation of the grip, allowing the weight of the no-longer-wanted to slip easily from our hands, falling, gravity-assisted, to the floor where, presumably, it shatters into a million tiny pieces that can be swept up and tossed, or a black hole opens up and swallows the worry or concern or burden whole, sucking it into nothingness and out of existence.
‘Just let it go’. Simple, right?
It’s almost a new year (2018, no less) and thoughts of newness, fresh starts, and confining the past to the past are in the air. The eve of a new calendar year is both a time for reflection and a time for looking forward.
I think it’s important to look back with gratitude. In many respects, it’s been a tough year for me. I lost my beloved dog, Rudolph, in September. Finances have been a bit wonky (but, meh, that stuff ebbs and flows). But there has been a lot of good, too. I got to visit my family in England for the first time in three years. I shared in the excitement of my wife, Jess, signing on with a publisher to put out her first cookbook. I created lots. Some well-received ad campaigns at the day job. A brand new blog. A couple of short stories, one of which got shortlisted in a contest I entered, the other of which is now entered for the latest iteration of the same contest. I even came anew at my long-in-progress novel, which more than anything made me think about writing this blog post.
“Don’t dwell on the past; turn it into art.”
Here’s the thing about letting go: It isn’t always easy. When I think about moving on after the loss of Rudy, part of my brain thinks that’s inappropriate and wants to cast me back into mourning. But you can’t mourn forever. In the wise words of my Mum, “You may never get over it, but you will learn to live with it.”
I’ve had this idea for another short story percolating in my head for a while now. It deals with the subject of loss and how we cope with it. I have no doubt that some of the feelings I’ve had around my personal loss this year will provide fuel for this story.
But not till after the novel. That’s priority one for 2018. A story that started almost twenty years ago, but that I am still yet to craft into a ‘final’ shape. I am making progress and I remain determined that this will be the year it will see the light of day.
It hasn’t always been like this, with the novel. There have been times I thought the healthiest thing to do would be to ‘let it go’. Perhaps, I pondered, it was a flight of fancy, or the immature work of my twenty-something self, with no place in my life any longer.
But still it lingered, still it nagged. So I’ve decided not to let this one go. I’m tackling it in a sensible way – devoting a little time to it pretty much every day, breaking the big project into small chunks, making consistent progress and, by doing so, feeding my confidence that I can (I will) get this done. Most importantly, I’m enjoying doing it. I’m focused on the process, not the end result. I’m writing because I enjoy writing. I’m pushing on, even when the words aren’t coming easily.
“Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.”
–Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
It strikes me that as we get older, our perceived ‘failures’ of the past can become excuses not to do the things that, deep down, we know we really want to do. In the words of Noel Gallagher, “While we’re living, the dreams we had as children fade away.”
But look at it this way: You have never been more accomplished, wiser, or more capable than you are right now.
So, just let go of the things that no longer serve you. But hold on with all your might to the things that stoke you. Letting go is important. Not letting go can be crucial.
Happy New Year, fellow creatives. May this be your most inspired, productive and satisfying year yet.