A Clean Slate

On any given day, I have some 20 drafts sitting in a folder on this blog, another 60 or so on Medium, and hundreds of notes, bookmarks, and saved little tidbits from around the web, scattered across my laptop and various cloud storage accounts. In short, when I write something, I never have to start from scratch.

While it is helpful to have a big stack of go-to projects, at times, it can also feel overwhelming. Which of these hundreds of pieces should I finish first? What’s the most important one to ship? What if I waste a whole month finishing stuff that should have been abandoned?

As your career progresses, you build an ever-growing portfolio, not just of works completed but also of threads you’ve began to pull on. This web of threads can easily become the Matrix, a machine with countless cables, ready for you to plug in at any time. But should you? Often, we forget to ask the question, and swoosh, another year has passed.

After a few years in the working world, you too will likely never have to start from scratch. There’ll always be someone you can call, a project you can pick back up. But sometimes, grabbing a clean slate will still be the right thing to do.

You’ll approach problems differently when you can’t lean on what you already know. You also won’t feel any of the weight of your past, and yet, your past experiences will all find their way into your new pursuit, just more indirectly.

I can never undo the experience of having written anything I’ve written, but I can choose to leave my notes aside. To open a new tab and say, “Okay, what do I want to talk about today?” Even if I do, however, all of my past writings will still act as a sort of subconscious filter. Whatever I come up with next will run through many layers of stones before making it onto the page, no research needed.

On some days, this is, ironically, the faster path to writing a daily blog. Where I might otherwise skip from draft to draft for hours, here I can take a breath, reflect, and then crystallize an idea in one fell swoop.

I know you have a lot to do, but remember: There’s always a clean slate waiting for you in the supply cabinet. All you have to do is walk over, pick it up, and you can color outside the lines.