Literary Liaisons

A blog about writing and all things story…

Editing & Life; Kicking things To The Curb

Yesterday was a day of eliminating, cutting and otherwise tossing aside things that aren’t working in my story, and coincidentally, my life.  For two days I’d agonized over a

Love is a soft place to land.

scene in my book that I’d written some time ago and that I thought fit nice an snug into the story – here’s a tip; if you’re agonizing over it, it probably doesn’t fit nice and snug. Here’s another tip; if you read the scene before it, then skip said scene, then read the scene after and the story makes sense, then the previously agonizing scene can be cut. Sounds sooooo simple, doesn’t it. But, it wasn’t a waste of an entire day because it’s a good day when I can see my story clearly and see what can be eliminated so that story has a chance at life. It’s a real good day when I can fly over the novel, get a bird’s eye view and see what fits, what doesn’t. A good day indeed. I need more of them. Flying is good.

And then my brother and I had a conversation about not having conversations with toxic people when you know that all it will do is cause chaos, depression, and suck the life out of you and your ability to have a healthy life.  That’s when I realized, like one of those “I coulda’ had a V-8” moments, that by cutting the ‘clutter’ chapters of my novel the story moves along at a clear and present pace (you thought I was gonna say danger) and the same rule applies to life.

Then a friend called (yes, all in the same day) and she was bemoaning her relationship and how she was working hard to keep it together and how fragile it was and how much they loved one another, and so on, until I asked “Why?”                                                                                               
“Why what?” she said.
“Why is it worth keeping together? I mean if I’ve learned anything in the relationships arena, and let’s not forget that I wrote a relationship column for 10 years, a book, taught relationship classes and have been blissfully married for 17 years, if I’ve learned anything it’s that it shouldn’t be so hard. And I’ve had those soul sucking, heartbreaking relationships, so I know if you’re not at peace within that relationship, if he is not your safe place, if the love is hard, not soft, then he is not the one; cut bait and move on.”
 After my friend’s long pause, she said, “Maybe so, but I love him.”
“You need to learn to edit,” I said. “I love to write. It doesn’t mean I’m good at it.”
“Everything isn’t about writing.” She said.
“Yes, it is. I’m just learning life is all about writing, editing, realizing what you’ve written and edited is flawed, broken, crashed and in pieces on the floor. Then piecing it all back together to make something even better than what you started out with. Isn’t that the same formula for life?
Hell, I didn’t become a woman until after my heart was broken numerous times and until after I’d lost so much of what I came into this world with; a trusting heart, good skin, perky breasts, a tiny waist, natural hair color, taught skin, virginity, and an ability to believe even the most unbelievable things.
It’s that loss that lightened and wizened me up so I could fly through life, see clearly, and understand how fleeting it all is, to feel compassion and to only believe in the most believable, unbelievable things. That loss made room for the real me, the emerging woman, to fill in the emptiness.
“Of course,” I added, “the flabby breasts get in the way, but I don’t miss the virginity one darned bit!”
My friend did not laugh or agree.
I wish I’d have learned earlier in life about the men, friends and other toxic relationships, but I didn’t so I made plenty of wing-clipping mistakes, and am a better woman and hopefully better writer for having made them.
So as yesterday continued I wrapped my mind around eliminating, cutting and tossing to the curb. I searched my 400 page manuscript (mind-numbing) for the word ‘The’ and cut (200) where the word was unnecessary. Then I looked around my house (because my eyes were bleeding), my life, my refrigerator and asked, “What can I get rid of?” I’m eliminating sugar (very hard), animal products (hard), and dairy (not so hard).  I’m eliminating toxic conversations unless they’re close family, and then only if it’s critical and I can’t find a way to fly free.
I’d like to eliminate going to the orthodontist and 20 pounds, but haven’t figured that out yet.
 What I have figured out is that until you learn to cut the things – be those things men, friends, family members, bad spending habits, or crappy chapters in your novel, then you can’t see what’s clearly at hand. And if you think that love, be it for a man or writing, is enough then you’re in denial. It isn’t until you learn to eliminate, cut, toss out and kick to the curb whatever isn’t working that you’re really living a life of your own design and if you’re not living a life of your own design, then what’s the point?
I know it may sound like I’ve just kvetched on and on about things that don’t mesh, but if you’re still here, still reading, then hopefully you get that it is all the same thing; writing, editing, eliminating and kicking to the curb what doesn’t work in life or in writing – all the same because it’s a frame of mind, a way of seeing that helps you get clear on what needs to be done; I need more vegetables in the refrigerator and less ‘the’ in my writing. That’s all. It’s that simple. Ha! Clarity is the hardest thing I’ve ever sought, but on the rare occasion when I find it, it’s a soft place, like love or like a well written chapter that does fit snug. I’m done rambling now. Off to buy some vegetables and a card for my hurting friend.
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3 comments on “Editing & Life; Kicking things To The Curb

  1. Jessica H. Stone
    January 14, 2013

    I agree! Less can be more. We are moving two households into one boat. A big boat, but still smaller than either current abode. And that means a lot of cutting. It's a challenge — thanks for the reinforcement.

  2. Nicki
    January 13, 2013

    An excellent essay. Thanks, Mindy.

  3. Stephen Hayes
    January 12, 2013

    You've beautifully expressed the "less is more" concept. We try so hard to hold onto things that we don't realize how much these things are dragging us down. Needing less and simplifying our lives is the best way to make room for what's really important.

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