The Penalty Box

The Easy Way to Simplify and Delete

Like many of us, I have a hard time letting go.

I don’t want to let go of some things I own. I spent money on those things. I really liked them. And even when they no longer fit into my life, I want to figure out how I can save a space for them.

I hate deleting something I’ve written. Even if a paragraph doesn’t fit into a blog post or a chapter of a book, it may still hold insight that I really like.

And I really don’t want to delete things off of my to-do list and the goals that I have for myself. I may not be quite capable yet, and I may not really have the time, and there might be higher priorities, but I really wanted to accomplish that thing.

There is a common phrase in writing to “kill your darlings.” This phrase has been floating around since 1914–so writers have been hearing it for over 100 years now. But at a writing conference recently, I heard a writer say that instead of killing his darlings, he puts them into a penalty box.

So if I’m not quite able to get rid of my possessions, or the things that I create, or my goals and to-do list, then I can put them into a penalty box instead.

A penalty box might be a cardboard box in the garage. Or a drawer somewhere. Or a separate computer document that never gets looked at again. Or a new textbox in OneNote with the label “Penalty Box.” Or a folder in your Inbox.

Your penalty box might expire at some point, but it doesn’t necessarily have to either. You can decide the rules.

It’s really painful to get rid of some things from our lives, things that we love, even if they don’t serve us well. And a penalty box sort of cheats that pain on both sides. It allows us to remove something from our daily lives and move forward, but it also defers the pain from losing it completely.

What do you need to put in your penalty box right now?

3 thoughts on “The Penalty Box”

  1. I love this concept. It makes me think of the scripture,
    “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
    A penalty box helps to put things in the right time of life.

    Like

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