A few months ago, I started a decluttering process, sorting through detritus from the last twenty-five years.
As pat of the process, I had moved a basket of notebooks from my studio into my bedroom. For weeks, every time I got out of bed, I found them staring back at me.
One evening in a moment of clarity, I knew they had to go.
They were filled with writing practice from 2010 to 2014, particular notebooks I had saved because I believed I had written something in them worthy of saving.
I thought I might skim them before I hauled them to the dumpster, take one last look in case there was some jewel that might be useful.
But that night, I understood that I’d only find remnants of an old life lived by my former self.
In a nod to environmentalism, I ripped out the pages in fistfuls, letting the smaller scraps fall to the floor, and filled two paper bags for recycling.
There were ten notebooks in all, and with each individual page, I let go of some old pieces of myself.
It was energizing to be sure and liberating.
When I started to slow down, I’d thought maybe I’d finish with the last few notebooks the next day. But I didn’t want to lose my momentum and miss the satisfaction of seeing the empty basket.
And so in the space of a few hours, I released it all.
I’ve read Marie Kondo, taken classes with Denise Linn.
I understand the emotional and spiritual value of clearing clutter. But there is another layer for the writer.
Natalie Goldberg taught this over and over, but it has taken me twenty years to know it in my bones.
The words you set down on the page are only thoughts blowing through the mind in the moment.
It is safe to let them go.
Those old pages cannot teach you who you are now or what you are becoming.
Release them and take a step toward freedom.
When your done, pick up a new pencil or pen and open a new notebook, a blank page, and begin again.
This moment, this mind. Let it speak.