Sometimes, Letting Go is Good

It was a bit of a strange week for me as I got back into the swing of teaching after my whirlwind trip to Los Angeles. My kids are finishing Never Let Me Go this week, and in rereading the last section in order to prepare for our discussion, I found myself more moved by the ending than I was on my first reading.

Now I won’t go spoiling the ending for anyone who’s not had the pleasure of reading Ishiguro’s book, but I will say it was apropos of my life at the moment. It seems to me that Kathy H’s great struggle in life isn’t so much her inability to cope with her circumstances as it is her inability to let go of the hold her past–and the people in it–have on her.

In the writing life, there are many lettings go. We have to let go of our fear of failure. We have to let go of the work we put out into the world. We have to let go of the untenable desire to be liked by everyone. Sometimes–and this is the trickiest–we even have to let go of our relationships with people who bring us more pain than joy.

I recently received the advice, from someone much wiser and more experienced than in the literary world, we should guard good friendship closely. The writing life is an oddity: we spend much of our time alone, yet let ourselves be as raw and unguarded as possible in work that strangers will read. Because we’re pretty fired-up as people, we can be too unbuttoned, too open, with others. I was reminded that those who care about us as people aren’t solely interested in our work, or in the public face we show the world. They’re interested in our wellness and the wellness of those we love. They’re interested in our lives as human beings, and as people trying to live in the world.

This month, as I’m moving, starting a new writing project, and reading for a new issue of the magazine, it’s a time of change. It’s not only time for some new beginnings, but also for growth. As I work It’s a goal of mine as a writer and an editor not to put myself in Kathy H-like situations with the Ruth’s of the world. I want to be professional and friendly to all, and to cultivate new writerly relationships. But I also want to guard those friendships with the people who matter most, and to remember that the writing life is only a part of life itself.

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6 Replies to “Sometimes, Letting Go is Good”

  1. Separating the writer from the person is not always easy to do. As you said, writers are usually very focused people, and it’s tough sometimes to turn off that intellectual energy and relax among the people who matter to you. Thanks for reminding us.

  2. We’re a funny breed, aren’t we? Sometimes it’s hard to swing back and forth between solitary confinement and enjoying relationships with friends and family. It can be hard to remember to go out and live the world, not just write it. At least until we need interaction and observation of others to use as material in our stories 😉

  3. I agree, letting go of some relationships can be painful but when they’re toxic and bring more misery it feels so good. Last year I had to let go of a toxic friendship that I knew would also lose some friends but funnily enough, it brought me more friends and the heavy weight I had felt all that time, was lost.

  4. ‘The writing life is only part of life itself’ – I liked that comment Kelly. I guess we can all be guilty of spending too much time buried in our computers. Gotta keep your head in the game, so to speak and I agree entirely about guarding the friendships that matter most.
    Nice reflection on the important things in life,
    Thanks Kelly.

  5. Joe, I think sometimes it’s scary to turn off the intellectual energy (even after this long, I still fear it might evaporate if I take a break of any kind. Ah, we writers can be so neurotic.

    Hi, Christine. Thanks for stopping by my blog. You’re so right–it’s often the case that the need for material or dialogue gets us back out into the company of other people! I find that, when I’m out and being social, though, I almost always enjoy myself. It’s the getting out that’s the trouble!

    silvii, you’re right–it does feel good! I thought I’d be rather bummed out by the loss of what had at one time been a real friendship, but I feel more relief than anything, because now I don’t have that emotional drain all the time.

    Monica, thanks for visiting here! I think we do forget that, as Stephen King says, art is a support system for life, not the other way around. We enjoy our creative moments so much that it’s hard to take time for anything else. How weird this must seem to others; it seems like having downtime is like eating our broccoli…

  6. I just came across this, though I realize it’s over 9 months old but I’m going to comment anyway but I enjoyed reading it :).

    This really makes me reflect upon myself as a writer. However I wouldn’t call myself a writer just yet as I have only been doing this for the past few months and have only started blogging in the past week and a half but I have found that there is a certain side of me that I can only express in writing and not through my voice, which I find a bit strange, yet I never came to realize it until I read your fourth paragraph. I started to write merely as a hobby in order to improve my creativity and my ability to write but I find that it has also given me something else: a better understanding of myself and the person that I’m becoming. Thanks!

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