Learn to Abandon Your Writing

This post is not as defeatist as the title may make it seem.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about Leonardo da Vinci’s quote that, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” Without publishing anything, I’ve never had to truly abandon my work before. Sure, I’ve let some of it grow dusty on my shelf and on my mind, but because it is not in the public’s hands, there’s still the chance that I might pick it up and whittle away at it some more.

But if I ever want to continue publishing–which I certainly do–there has to be a time when enough is enough. There has to come the moment of abandonment. I’ve recently come to understand just how painful, frustrating, and liberating that can be.

I mentioned receiving the galley for “The Man in the Mirror” earlier this week. My job was to read through it to make sure there weren’t any errors introduced during the typesetting. Now, the types of things I was supposed to be looking at were proper indentations, italics, maybe a missed quotation mark here and there. This is not the time to rework my prose, or cut a paragraph here and there. Besides, I’ve read this piece a million times by now; there can’t be anything worth changing this late in the game, right?


There was one particular sentence that really irked me, one sentence that made me think, “Ah no, why didn’t I catch that before?” It’s not incorrect; I just don’t like the way it sounds. I knew that the time for sentence level of edits had passed. So I did what I knew I had to do. I abandoned it, and hoped readers won’t judge me too harshly (if they did, it might only be karma, since I’ve been pretty rough on some writers myself). I hope for the chance to abandon many more projects in the future.