I read a great article this week about Jojo Moyes, a rapidly rising successful novelist. The article was focused on the writing craft and how writers can fine tune their game. Moyes makes the point that as a writer, you must be comfortable with throwing stuff out. You can write tons of stuff, but regardless of how good it is, if it doesn’t fit the bigger plotline of the tome, then to the trash heap it must go (Jessica Strawser, “Jojo Moyes: Going Global” Writer’s Digest. January 2016, pp. 40–43):
“Frequently I will write chapters that I end up having to ditch. And they might be beautifully crafted, they might contain things I’m really proud of, but you have to be ruthless. There comes a point when you know in your gut something just isn’t working, or isn’t as good as it should be. What I’ve found over the years is that I’ve never regretted anything I’ve ditched—I’ve only regretted stuff I’ve left in.” (p. 42)
This is an incredibly powerful truth about good writing. To all of us who are writers, it is wisdom well received. Simultaneously, I could not help but notice a much broader application of Moyes’ words. Her writing advice is also a metaphor of how we should live our personal and professional lives. Read it one more time and think about how every word metaphorically applies to your life and mine, especially that last sentence:
“What I’ve found over the years is that I’ve never regretted anything I’ve ditched—I’ve only regretted stuff I’ve left in.”
Hopefully, you have ditched many things in your life that you knew just weren’t working. I know that I have! Our human nature is such however that we perhaps have not ditched enough. As Moyes’ statement reminds us, we probably won’t regret anything we’ve ditched, only some of the stuff we haven’t ditched.
Be careful what you allow into your personal life and your professional life. You don’t want to live with any regrets.