Writing is rewriting.
Just dumping the contents of your brain into text does not constitute writing. Writing is the conscious shaping of story, using considered language to add structure to your understanding so that you can access and share it more effectively.
Like any skill, the more you learn to rewrite the faster and the better you can do it. You learn to rewrite on the fly, without getting blocked by your editor voice, that bear in the closet who is afraid of making a mistake. Rewriters know that the delete key is just a finger press away, making all text plastic and malleable, not something that commands you but something you mould and remould into what you want.
Throwing away text and starting again is often bliss for me, although I know that for people who find writing excruciating in the first place it is painful to lose any hard churned text. The process of taking up a blank page again mirrors the process of building a new life; now that I know what I know from my previous experience, how can I start on a new footing and make better choices?
Human lives are usually built higgledy-piggledy, thrown together out of what is at hand. We take up the plans and patterns of our family, build to resist the storms we understand with the tools we have at hand.
Deconstructing those jerry-built lives is a real challenge because it means tearing apart what we have already struggled to create and become comfortable with. We see what we have as real and fixed, not plastic and malleable.
Most often, we end up burying the lead in our lives, leaving what is most important hidden deep in the mundane and routine. This loss leaves us struggling to find a through-line, something that can make the strong parts come forward to help us and readers stay connected to the ideas and images.
Trying to tell people that they need to learn to destroy what they have created, to then pick through the ashes for what was strong enough to survive, using those bits to start again is not usually a well received message. Mastery, though, depends on just that ruthlessness, that willingness to sacrifice the mediocre and serviceable in the quest for the excellent and essential.
Killing your art, though, to help train your creative power, is one of the most cost-effective ways to rebuild a life. Plans are useless, generals say, because they fall apart when they first meet the enemy, but planning is essential because it gives you the understanding, agility and power to create new plans on the spot using the learning and skills you now own. It is much better to have your plans torn apart than to have your forces torn apart.
Construction, deconstruction, reconstruction, making mistakes, identifying them and then trying again is the way we gain a bit of mastery in the world.
Writing is rewriting, creation is recreation, and lives come from where we choose again, better, smarter and more actualized, spiralling though the same challenges, addressing them in a deeper, more fluid and more integrated way that lifts us higher in achieving a kind of purity that we know will never be perfection.
All the wisdom I have I owe to rewriting what I thought I knew into more cogent and more graceful texts. This gives me the skills to listen, understand and integrate my knowledge of other stories, seeing the connections and the blockages, the meaning mixed in with the symbols.
If you aren’t willing to start again, trusting that you will always carry forward the best of what you did before, you can never become new, transcending the old shit. Using the same thinking to make the same choices will get you the same results.
Process is process.
Better writing requires rewriting, creating change that selects and values the best in the message.
Better living requires reliving, creating change that selects and values the best in us.
Just dumping what you feel doesn’t constitute really living. Getting more open, more connected and wiser by making new choices and learning from them is what empowers a life.
Start over from where you are now. Throw away your darlings, kill the Buddha, and trash your good work to see what rises next, to quest for your best.