Recently I've learned that sometimes you just have to let things go.
I'm not referring about that girl you've been hung up on since middle school. Or that jerk who cut you off in traffic during your morning commute. Or the moment someone absentmindedly says the drawing you spent four days on is “not too bad.” (Though, these are all probably things you should move on from.)
I'm talking the need to find define a style, especially if you're still learning the basics. It's okay to not know right this second. I've been told it's something that emerges from years of work. Even then, it changes as you do.
I mean reminiscing/beating yourself up about missed opportunities. You can mourn, yeah, but I'd let it go. You're better than that.
There will be times you need to be brave enough kill your darlings. I often ask authors what they edited out of their work. Their answer always surprises me.
Add expectations to the list. This could be expectations to be exactly like someone – maybe Ray Carver, M.C. Escher, Salvador Dali, Barbara Kruger, Rembrandt, James Joyce, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Andy Warhol – you get it. Just because you like them doesn't mean you have to be them. You can appreciate a Minimalist, Maxamalist, Surrealist, or Realist style but desire to not be labeled. Or, you can label yourself an Impressionist but still play with Cubism from time to time.
Or the expectation of forcing yourself to fit in with a specific group because you're tired of being on the outside looking in. I've heard the “inside” can be a bit cramped and there aren't enough chairs. Hell, I've met folks who prefer the fresh air.
Also, ideas. I've had plenty of bad ones. I've had a handful of good ones. Just before writing this article I looked through an old folder on my flash drive and re-read some old writings and ideas. Some I wished I jumped on. Others I found genuinely laughable. I've found poem lines and story starts that just don't resonate with me anymore. In all cases I'm surprised I even thought up any of these.
I've thought up characters who fall and get amnesia and wake up in Victorian era England that blessed me with this awful line about a handyman, “He can fix just about anything, from broken doors to broken hearts.” I've had whodunit murders on trains (like that hasn't been done before) named after Lincoln Park albums. I attempted to pen a Stepford Wives knockoff – only with a guillotine at the end. I've stashed poems I've written for former roommates. Or my personal favorite – a reporter who took a serial killer by surprise in the killer's car by hiding in the back seat.