Last year, I had author Peter Robb visit one of my Masters writing classes as a guest lecturer. As is usually the case with our guest lecturers, Robb was extremely generous with his knowledge and experience. One thing he shared, which has stuck with me over the last few months is the idea that, “Nothing is ever wasted”.
The implications of this idea are so liberating and empowering! The beginnings of stories that never went anywhere, those feeble attempts as intelligent writing, those personal essays written on the back of lecture handouts, those honest scratchings in private journals: they can still live – but maybe just another day. As writers, artists, creatives we, much like Dr Frankenstein, can dissect or hack into these dead things and find serviceable, perfectly suitable pieces, thoughts, ideas, beginnings, endings to other works.
This knowledge has allowed me to relax into my own work. For example, in my current novel WIP, I am getting the sneaky feeling that a major part of my narrative needs to be put to rest. I haven’t fully accepted it yet, but as I write I feel more and more at peace with the idea of it, because: Nothing is ever wasted.
Maybe the thing you’re working on isn’t fully formed in your imagination,
Maybe you’re not ready,
Maybe you need more research,
Maybe you need better technique,
Maybe you’re trying too hard,
Maybe it’s just a rubbish idea…
What ever it is, it may be time to “kill your darlings”, as William Faulkner suggested. But we can be brave in doing this, because: Nothing is ever wasted.
Perhaps in five years or ten years or twenty years, you’ll find that piece and breathe life into it again. Maybe you’ll forget all but a remnant, the true heart of the idea which will give it new life in a much better work. What ever the case, killing the stale, tired, hard-work stuff you’re working on can free you to focus on what is working. And let’s not be modest and just admit, that what is working is pretty bloody brilliant. (Go on, you know how good you are.)
So be free good friends. There’s too much good work in you to be stuck working on something that is better off buried for now.