Much of writing is like moving furniture into a new house. The open space excites you. You have a bunch of ideas, and you want to cram everything in. But we soon realize that no matter how great our ideas are, too much of a good thing can also be problematic.
I often try to put too much furniture in a given space – so much to the point where I end up having to waste even more time figuring out what to take out. But as I continue writing I realize this is not necessarily a problem, it is simply part of the process. It is a way of working in which you try to see how much you can get away with, – realizing you’ve gone too far, and then dialing it back a notch. It’s a practice and lesson in fearlessness in our work – to go farther – instead of doing less out of fear of making a mistake. Sure, moving all this furniture in and out can be a lot of work, but at least it’s an honest attempt at creating something that is uniquely yours versus taking half-steps and cheating yourself as an artist.
The left over ideas can be used for later – for other rooms perhaps – and the left overs from those can yet again be used for other rooms. Do this enough times, and eventually you will have created a brand new home with a collection of spaces unique to itself.
Some ideas will suck. Some will work but won’t necessarily fit the overall theme of what you’re going for. Some simply don’t fit through the door no matter how hard you try.
Some rooms are welcoming. For guests. Others are just for yourself.
Some are purely aesthetic. Others are more utilitarian. The best are a little bit of both.
Good writing is like a well-furnished home. There is just enough furniture to feel welcoming – no more, no less. Each room has a clear focal point, coupled with a neat balance of little accessories and trinkets to cushion your every step. The beginnings are clear, and so are the endings.
Bad writing can be like a cluttered house – there are so many things that you can’t even find the entrance, and even if you do, you get lost soon as you step through the door. Bad writing can also be like a barely furnished home – where there is not enough seating for everyone, or the transitions from room to room are jarring and harsh.
When writing a new piece, expect the clutter. Embrace the explosion of new ideas with open arms. Have the courage to plow through it all, yet practice, the discipline to keep only what you need. Do this, and you will build a home that comes with it a personal flare that is uniquely yours – all of which is only possible by first allowing yourself to go through the shaky beginnings of any new work of art.
by Jason Lam