One of the characteristics of a good writer is the inability to let go. To let go of something is to give up an opportunity, and idea, or an inspiration. Let go of what, you ask? Nearly anything.
Writers latch on to ideas and turn them over and over to see all sides until one angle strikes them particularly. This may take hours or it may take months. Sometimes the idea is captivating and sometimes it is frustrating. Sometimes ideas are wrestled with and sometimes they are merely reflected on. But only once the angle is found does it go from idea to written piece – or at least to a good written piece.
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Writers latch on to people and relationships. People inspire and teach and reveal. People are sounding boards for ideas and editors and counselors. People are ideas embodied, to be observed and studied. Without other people writers write in a vacuum and such writing is vacuous.
Of course latching on to people often leads to hurt and pain – something else writers hold on to. Sometimes such holding is healthy as it is reflective and processing, and the writing it produces is cathartic and restorative. Sometimes such holding is angry and poisonous for the writer, but even that can produce powerful works.
Writers latch on to writers and writings, without which they would be empty and mentally malnourished. Sometimes such clinging lasts for a season and sometimes for a lifetime. But every writer has other writers and writings that they view as seminal, formative, and life giving. If a writer cannot readily name a number of other writers or works that have shaped him he is not to be trusted . . .or read.
Place is something dear to a writer, a thing that is held tightly. It might be a quiet place where writing is done or a wide open space where it is inspired. It may be a place full of memory or a place full of pain. Maybe it is a new place to be explored and examined or a familiar place of safety and comfort. No matter what, though, place is clutched tight by a writer.
Letting go is something a writer can only do when the writing is done. And even then it is often impossible. We let go of the piece we have written and send it off, but the ideas, the relationships, the pain, and places all linger. And that’s good because without them we would not be able to write again.