One of my favorite lessons from Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones is the lesson of detachment. In one chapter called “We Are Not the Poem,” she says: “Don’t identify too strongly with your work.”
One takeaway is that we can remember to check our egos when we are asking for feedback on our work.
I have been repeatedly impressed by the brave students I have seen who have written and shared their stories about themselves and their lives—difficult, hard, sad stories about depression, suicide, and loss— and eagerly awaited feedback.
They wanted to make their writings the best they could be. They recognized that these stories were important, and that sharing them was powerful, and that by checking their egos and hearing honest feedback, they could make their stories even better.
It almost seems paradoxical—how can you detach from something that you are investing so much energy into? In a way, it’s like a religion. You have to trust, and have faith.
For some reason the image that comes to me is of a railway car being detached from an engine. Your ego is like an empty (or even full) cargo car. The engine drags it behind. It may slow it down. Perhaps the fuel you need is in it. Instead, detach the car from the engine.
Put the fuel in the engine. Make the engine the glorious best it can be.
Make sure everything is working and in place and that the engineer who is driving it is competent and alert and not swigging from a vodka bottle.
Once everything is in place, unhook that car from the engine and let it go. Let your writing out into the world and just watch what happens, as if you were merely someone waiting for it to pass by.