How do you view the time spent on something that gets scrapped, the effort put into something that doesn’t pan out? Is it all a waste? Well, it all depends on how you look at it.
In A Circle of Quiet, writer Madeleine L’Engle tells of a performance she experienced in Boston’s Symphony Hall. Rudolf Werkin had performed Beethoven’s Appassionata sonata so well that as the last notes died out the crowd not only applauded, cheered, and stamped but also stood on their chairs to show their approval. She continues,
But if Serkin did not practice eight hours a day, every day, the moment of inspiration, when it came, would have been lost; nothing would have happened; there would have been no instrument through which the revelation could be revealed.
I try to remember this when I dump an entire draft of a novel into the wastepaper basket. It isn’t wasted paper. It’s my five-finger exercises. It’s necessary practicing before the performance.
Now, if you had spent hours of your time composing a lengthy draft, and then decided to trash the entire thing, it would be tempting to see all that time as wasted. But if, like L’Engle, you see it as practice, you’ll view it differently. If you view it as simply part of the process, if you grow from it as a result, then there’s no need to count it all a loss. Just because it ends up in the wastebasket, doesn’t mean it was all a waste.