Or practical non-attachment for the creatively minded.
At the end of my college years, I and my creative circle of friends (writers, painters, photographers, musicians, etc) would come together once a year for a sacred and vital ritual: The art burning.
It happened by accident and it proved so successful, and fun, that it became an annual tradition for many years. There is something very cathartic that comes with liberating yourself from the results of your own labor. Most people struggle to finish a book, ONE, so the idea of immediately throwing that novel in a fire may seem abhorrent, but in my experience you have far more to gain from the act.
I discovered I was writing for all of the wrong reasons.
I wasn’t able to confront that aspect of myself until after I threw my first novel into the fire. I realized that I had been writing, not with an eye towards the work itself, but instead for the validating effect it would have on my identity. Essentially I was writing to medicate my identity, and to justify various notions of personality.
I discovered this was a specifically unhealthy approach, because it becomes almost impossible to separate yourself from your work, and without that distance it’s impossible to assess to quantify it. If you can’t separate yourself from your art, on the primal level of identity, you’re going to have a specifically bad time.
People are not books, but books can reflect people if they are polished enough. Treating a novel like an intimate, personal extension of yourself will only end poorly, because not only do you need to be able to see your work more impartially, you also need to be able to resolve your own experiences- and if you keep walking around with this novel like an emotional open wound, you’re never going to heal. It’s vitally important for an author to learn how to NOT see themselves in their work, because you stop where the ink starts.
Burning your own work, especially that ‘first’ novel, is liberating. Statistically speaking, that first novel is terrible. If that’s the only novel you’re ever going to write, I would argue that you are better off with out it anyway. Burning it brings you to writing as a process, and not writing for a product.
It’s a valuable lesson is non-attachment, which is a lesson I take to heart as a Buddhist and a writer. When it comes to the matter of your own creative work, the nuclear option should always been on the table, and that option isn’t going to be meaningful until you use it.
Further, I suspect that writing with the intent to burn you own work will actually make it easier to write. Many people get bogged down in that ‘Still working on my novel’ phase. What you write for that first novel isn’t important, because it’s going to be terrible. No you aren’t special, and no it’s not the literary work that’s going to define a generation. It’s not. To liberate yourself for those expectations that hover just over the horizon of every writers mind, make the decision early to burn it.
This will free you from worrying to much about content and quality. This will let you take chances, explore interesting composition choices, and over all induce you to MORE creativity- which is the point of all of this no?
Write that first novel to practice the behavior of writing, the act itself, and to insure that you learn the correct lessons, throw a big party, invite all of your friends, and burn every copy of it that exists.
I will promise you that it does feel pretty good, it’s not something your apt to forget.