Some sources put a negative spin on the idiom: “If you are back to square one, you have to start working on a plan from the beginning because your previous attempt failed and the progress you made is now wasted.” Ouch. I prefer this kinder interpretation: “returned to the beginning.” It sounds almost poetic. As a side note, Square One was also a restaurant in Santa Barbara; it’s closed now, so no one can go back to it.
Actually, I don’t think we really can go back to square one, because we have learned what doesn’t work. For example, it is said that Thomas Edison made thousands of unsuccessful attempts to invent the electric light bulb. In the midst of these trials, a young reporter asked him if he felt like a failure and should just give up. Edison replied, “Young man, why would I feel like a failure? And why would I ever give up? I now know definitively over 9,000 ways that an electric light bulb will not work. Success is almost in my grasp.”
Indeed, returning to the beginning has exhilarated and energized me. Perhaps starting over appeals to the Aries in me—good at launching projects, not so good at finishing them. As I conceive of my novel anew, ideas from the first beginning start to find their proper places. I envision cozy compartments, in an expansive structure, for all the things I want to say. If everything goes as planned, this work could very well be my “magnificent octopus.”
Or maybe my incandescent new approach is just platinum wire on the road to a carbon filament.