Writing advice, No. 4: Never hold back

Today’s writing advice:

Never hold back …

(Read on for details!)

“Do you have a creativity junk heap?” asked my friend via email.

She has been working on a specific blog post for a few months, off and on. It’s a very cool concept, but as she’s worked with it, her thinking has evolved in a new direction.

And now one of her favorite (and most creative) lines has been rendered obsolete. Argh.

She doesn’t want to lose the line — maybe it will fit into a different post at a different time? Hence the question about a “creativity junk heap.”

I love questions like this, because they force me to think about my writing process — what works and what doesn’t.

I replied, “Yes … but I have heaps. No, heaps of heaps. And mostly I just lose track of them.” That is the truth. 

But also true is that often when I’m working on a long-term or complex project, I set up a file specifically for that “extra” stuff. And sometimes I actually go back and mine it for exactly the info or the snippet I need.

More often, though, it becomes a collection of thoughts I never think about again — and yet can never make myself delete. The file becomes a security blanket, woven of used brainwaves.

Here’s the thing: Thoughts are like a flowing river, and the creative spring never stops. Sure, like any river, its flow might slow or even dry up, but the rainy season will come again and replenish it.

What’s the rainy season in this analogy? Having new experiences, talking with people, meeting (or observing) people, changing up your scenery, dabbling in a hobby … These will keep your mind bursting forth with new thoughts and connections.

With all of that going on, it doesn’t take long for that once “great idea” to feel a bit stale amid all you’ve since learned and experienced.

Now, here is probably the single most important piece of advice I received in my MFA writing program:

Never hold back and “save that idea for later.” If it works in what you’re writing today, use it today. 

How do you keep your creativity flowing? I’d love to hear about it!

(Apparently rivers and writing are linked in my mind. I just recalled that I also used the river analogy in Writing advice No. 2!)

The front of a canoe on a gently flowing river on a sunny day
Canoeing the Red River of the North (summer 2021)

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