There’s no shame in erasing your work and starting over. As a matter of fact, there is something almost therapeutically spiritual about wiping away old ideas and starting fresh.
And I’m not just talking about erasing a physical manifestation of your work, as in chalk on board or pencil on paper. I’m also speaking to erasing the cacophony of thoughts on a subject cluttering your mind, or outdated preconceived notions in order to clear your brain space for more innovative and advanced ideas.
Like an over-used Etch-a-sketch, you may need to give your head a few repeated shakes in order to clear away cobwebs and ghosted images from work you’ve previously done and old influences which won’t serve your new projects and personal goals.
The problem comes when we think our old ideas (and the even older concepts that sparked them) are indelible; their removal forbidden by some immutable law sent down from the heavens by an infallible force.
It’s just not true.
- Doctors and Dentists used to recommend that people smoke cigarettes to improve their health.
- Cocaine was an ingredient of Coca-Cola until 1903.
- People used* to believe the Earth was the center of the universe, hollow, and flat.
- *Some still do…
It takes courage to erase your work and begin again.
Many of the greatest artists in history would complete a painting that everyone else in the world would have likely thought was wonderful, but then painted a newer and more skillful masterpiece right over top of the original painting.
It’s a bold move for a writer to press Ctrl+A on their keyboard to select all the text of their mediocre first draft, hit delete, and begin again from page one. It’s something akin to the story of Captain Hernán Cortés telling his soldiers to “burn the ships” as a way to remove any means of retreat and forcing forward motion as the only option.
So crumple up those papers filled with old ideas, delete those blog posts filled with outdated theories, shake that Etch-a-Sketch until the screen is completely clean and then begin again — even better than before.