On Monday night I was working on my daily writing goal and a large portion of my writing for that day consisted of the delete button. I ended up chopping ten pages from my manuscript, a manuscript in it’s infancy, which pretty much meant the majority of the project fell to the cutting room floor.
I had been struggling with it all week and finally a conversation I had with my friend, John, pushed me over the edge. From the minute we started talking about my intent for the larger vision of the novel, and the idea of starting somewhere else, I felt the familiar itch in my teeth, my brain, my eyes, to do something. All through our dinner at Chilis (oh yes, Chilis) I was formulating new scenes, new sentences, crafting necessary and seamless flashbacks, visions of sugarplums danced in my head to say the least.
But cutting is really hard. And even as I highlighted whole chunks to slash, Kamel, beside me, was all “no! what are you doing?! I liked that part!”.
But I bet you’ll like the new stuff better.
While in the process of writing – as in the putting of words on the page – my first instinct is to hold on for as long and as hard as I can to everything I write. It’s beautiful! It’s exactly what I wanted to say! It’s my story! But then I get frustrated, and the feedback is far from glowing, and when I try to fix, my fixes just make the problems bigger and louder and more obnoxious. And then I am ready to cut.
This reminds me of my first apartment in San Francisco. First it was in the garage. Surprise! Garage apartment! And when I took my jeans off at the end of the day and left them on the floor, the next day they were always damp. My room mate had an abusive boyfriend who bruised her and had her screaming and crying on the phone at all hours of the night and then on the good days they would have sex in the shower while I dry-heaved under my covers. And then there were the mice. So so many mice. In the walls, under my bed, in my mattress, under the sink, in traps, not in traps, walking away with the goddamn traps. It got to the point where I slept with the lights on all night to deter the mice from waking me up with their little pitter-pattering, skampering feet.
And then finally, mercifully, I decided to move. Boom, decision made, and within two weeks I was out and living in an apartment with a cat. The exact opposite of mice.
I am a hold-er on. I grit my teeth and close my eyes and smile through the discomfort until I can’t anymore. It’s the same thing over and over again with boyfriends, friends, apartments, jobs, and writing. Thankfully with writing it doesn’t take me 9 months to get my act together (but then sometimes it does). But once I’m ready to let go, it’s easy. It feels like dead weight. I hit the delete button and poof! Look at all the space that just opened up! To write, to breath, to create, to move forward.
People talk about doing things (like life lists) as being scary and risky and “taking a leap”. That the doing of things is important, necessary, good for the soul. But undoing them is equally important and necessary. The shedding of pounds, of baggage, of empty words that only lead you to dead ends.