I’ve enjoyed contributing here on the Pastry Box this year, if for nothing else than it’s gotten me writing on the regular again. Having a deadline helps drive it into my skull repeatedly that writing has less to do with skill, and more to do with showing up. Making the clackity noise really does work. Just like merely putting pencil to paper counts as sketching. I should know this by heart by now, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll need life-long reminding.
Each month when I feel my Pastry Box deadline approach, I set my mind to sponge-mode in case an idea happens to present itself. I start jotting down notes on paper, in random text files, and peck out sentences in emails to myself while I ride the subway each day. Few of these ever get used for anything, but they all resonated with me in some way when I wrote them.
Over time, I’ve amassed a considerable amount of drafts and unorganized thoughts. Some date back to when I first started blogging (we were really preoccupied with IE6 back then) and the pile since then keeps growing. When I can’t think of anything to write about, I often go back and skim through these drafts to see if there is a loose thread I can pick up. There are many thoughts that were interesting to me for a time, but it rarely happens that one might strike me now. If these thoughts resonated with me before, why can’t they now?
I used to feel like a bit of a failure when I would look back on all these drafts and see them as uncompleted work. Perhaps these ideas are just sketches in their own right. Not exact, not refined, just ideas in their preferred state: ugly. They have a lot of raw gumption, but few have a leg to stand on. Without planning it, my writing process turned out pretty similar my sketching process.
I often think about that maxim of “strong opinions, weakly held”, and it really rings true to me. I love imagining many different scenarios when I sketch or write—and even when I form an opinion—I invariably end up having my mind changed down the road.
The drafts I have aren’t incomplete works anymore, they’re old points of view that have changed. I haven’t picked up some of those threads because I probably don’t agree with them anymore. Making the clackity noise or scribbling in a sketchbook are just ways of trying ideas on for size. If they don’t fit, that’s alright, I can cast them aside. And that’s kind of the point anyway. Good ideas have a way to coming up again, begging to be nurtured and finished.
This piece originally appeared on The Pastry Box Project.