It's noteworthy that much of the 'self-help' and 'self-improvement' advice sounds an awful lot like phrases taken right out of scripture. A wide variety of scripture, I might add. I read a lovely essay about a woman who discovered that the child she was carrying tested positive for Down's. Some advisors advised her to end the pregnancy. She did not. The essay was not about 'choice'; it was about letting go of her expectations of what her life should be and allowing life to happen, with all its twists and turns and surprises. She quoted a Buddhist phrase at the beginning of her essay which sounded so much like words from the New Testament reminding us that a grain of wheat must die in order to become more fully itself. Let go of your little mind and let life surprise you.
What has this to do with writing? Well, quite a bit actually.
I'm currently working on a series of short stories that I have culled from the novel I had poured much work and struggle into. I have been banging my brain around the structure of the novel for several months, perhaps even a few years. Recently I decided to let go of the novel format and take the characters, scenes, conflicts and settings that I had invested in and re-shape chapters into work that could stand alone as short stories.
Now it's a bit more complicated than lifting chapters from a novel and re-labeling them short stories. Short stories have their own set of rules for structure, narrative arc, beginning and end, and construction. In order for some of my scenes and characters to stand out in the world by their lonesome, not cradled by chapters, I had to (and have to) re-think the direction and let myself be surprised by what developes.
I have sent one such story out into the world to be judged. I am working on getting the others in fighting shape to join it.
A friend of mine once said what most writers know: I don't know what I'm going to write until I write it. Isn't that grand!! It's grand because it demonstrates a letting go, a release, a freedom to become a channel between the thoughts and characters that have moved in to our heads and that process, that encounter, dare I say, that grace that happens between pen and paper, between keyboard and screen, between mind and fingers taking off in a flurry of tapping.
None of this is as magical as I wish it were. It's hard work. It takes a great deal of logic and organization and thinking and criticizing and often years of training and straining. But then, we need to let it go and see if the seeds we have been sowing are strong enough to take root and grow into something we can look upon with delight.