Simplicity is one of the finest things in life – right up there with love, ‘doing nothing,’ and walking in the woods. The empty plot of earth that doesn’t have anything planted yet is one of the most magical things in the world. So is the moment before the music starts. Or the sweetness of a haiku. An empty shelf. The beach at dawn. Your child’s face. A blank notebook.
In the I-Ching, the hexagram called Wei-Chi means Before Completion. It’s the hexagram of extraordinary optimism – opening the way to the future. Everything is on the verge of great abundance, but the transition from chaos to order is not yet completed. The change is prepared for, but there is still responsibility – it’s time to set things in order. It’s the stillness before the celebration. The anticipation before the great meeting. With this hopeful outlook, the I-Ching “Book of Changes” comes to a close, exemplifying that with every end comes a beginning. It’s springtime.
This is a great time to eliminate things you don’t need any more. Old sweaters, a pile of books you keep for sentimental reasons, a routine that’s become a bore, a knickknack, old letters, old habits, prejudices, thoughts. Throw them away – or give them away if they’re worthwhile – and leave room for something new to come your way. Empty your closets of things you haven’t used in a year – and allow space in your life. Don’t fill the drawer – leave it empty. Clear a shelf – and don’t put anything on it. Clear an hour – and don’t make plans. Choose not to buy, or plant, or prettify. Don’t purchase that new hat. If you clear away old leaves and leave a plot of earth, you might be amazed what emerges. If you clear your life of things that are no longer vital, you’ll feel a thrill equal or more intense to the one you’d feel if you’d bought a new dining set.
Be clear about what matters. Simplify your life, your home, your routine, your relationships. Keep the vital ones, empty the rest. Be clear, be empty. And watch what happens.
Fun Writing Practice – Clear the Clutter
When in doubt – throw it out. As you look at individual words in your story or essay, ask yourself whether or not it’s vital for it to be there. You might be surprised how much more powerful and convincing your writing can become by eliminating clutter. By paring your piece to its essence, you are allowing the words to speak for themselves. They don’t need you, the author, to give them a crutch or that extra drink.
Right now, I’m in the process of revising a novel that’s 103,000 words. The task I’ve set myself is to bring it down to 999,999 words. I am not deleting any scenes or characters – just words, clichés, extra verbiage: words, words, words.
Here’s an example:
“She moaned again, burying her face in her hands. We waited for something—no one knew what—to happen next. Harry was taking a long time getting the glass of water.”
Do you see which word is purposeless and annoying? Yes, you got it! “Next.” What the heck is it doing there? Ugh! Completely unnecessary! See what I mean?
You don’t want words to get in the way of your writing – you want them to be the writing.
I’m reminded of my yoga teacher’s instruction: to let your breathing breathe itself.
Let your writing write itself.
- French onion soup on a cold day
- Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges River
- laughing in the kitchen while you wash dishes together
- changing the furniture around
- writing a poem
- an affectionate cat