Pictures of daffodils, forsythia, dogwoods and magnolias have been battling it out for weeks in the Social Palace to prove winter is over. Is it my imagination or did peeps around the world start posting them earlier this year in order to pull themselves out of the pandemic doldrums?
Used to be I never contemplated spring until the yellow-green buds of the willow sprouted, and even then, my skepticism remained until the lilacs arrived. The air in the acres around me are thick with lilacs now. Oh, Happy Day! But over the last few years— ever since we laid new gravel in the drive— my surefire sign of spring is when the weeds pop. They’ve been poking their tangly weed faces out of the gravel for over a month. And I’m happy dancing. I don’t love weeds. I hate the way they’ve overrun my pathetic garden behind the house, which never gets cleared out because I don’t like gardening— refuse to do it.
But I L-O-V-E love to weed my driveway. Love it so much, I weed with a maddening lack of urgency— LOL. Pluck a few intruders as Abigail and I head out for our walk in the morning, pluck a few more upon our return, and fuhgeddaboutit— until it’s time to check the mail. Pull a few here, extract a few there. The way a weed root pops out of the earth is more satisfying than when a champagne cork leaves a bottle of bubbly. Why? Because of the tension between the root and me right before he lets go. Gotcha! Sometimes he doesn’t budge. Sometimes I need to dig to surgically remove the uncooperative, but most often I’m the victor.
Why the razzle-dazzle about weeds? My mission to delete a novella-length of words from Kaitlyn’s story is complete. Total Darling’s weeded out— 28,466. Yeah, I’m proud of me too.
Jump back to the days of cassette tapes— Not long after I discovered the work of You Can Heal Your Life Louise Hay, a friend gave me a cassette of her seminar on Change and Transition. I listened to the hour tape twice a day as I drove back and forth to the theatre where I was performing. She spoke of the importance of change, why it’s so frigging hard and how to set it in motion. The seminar closed with Questions & Answers. A woman in the audience said she was born with one “normal” size leg while the other was shrunken. Her physical imbalance made her horribly self-conscious and socially uncomfortable no matter what she did fashion wise. She never went a day without picking on them. She wanted to know how to stop. After a pause, Louise said, “What would you want to change if your legs were the same size?” And without a pause the woman said…
I don’t know, I’m too busy picking on my legs.
Everyone laughed, including Louise, and so did I, each and every time I listened. Because Resistance is a sneaky fellow— a master at focusing you away from the real work that needs to be done. He’s been working overtime with me over the last few months. I thought he’d been whipped into submission once I was able to emotionally distance myself from Kaitlyn. But he found a way to convince me the actual size of the word count didn’t matter.
Maybe because of how many times I’ve listened to Louise Hay’s cassette, I couldn’t accept it. But Resistance tugged like the pesky weeds in the drive that need surgery, and I didn’t get this far by giving in to it.
And so, I snuck up on him. Pretended lowering the word count was the farthest thing from my mind. What mattered was how concise each typo-free sentence could be. Sentence by sentence I worked my way through the entire manuscript losing 150 words here, 400 there. Circling closer, I tackled all point-of-view filters, like “I say, noticed, realized,” etc. Overused words were squeezed out next. I scrutinized chapter length and discovered unnecessary transitions, which led to the reevaluation of chapter openings and closings— more unneeded bulk. And then Wham-Bam, I was face to face with the problem chapters I’d hoped to address when this whole cut-the-novella-out-of-my-manuscript-mission began. Surprise, surprise. The last of the Darlings dropped with no muss, no fuss.
Over the last four days, I’ve tried to figure out why I couldn’t just dump the stuff that let go at the end in the beginning. Because change is hard. And I’m learning sometimes the best approach, when it comes to editing, is to come at it through the root cellar.
It’s really no different than weeding my driveway. In the beginning the project feels like a never-ending task. But pluck enough weed clusters over enough time, and suddenly the big clusters no longer look intimidating. I see them for what they really are— wild plants gone astray. So too, are the interesting but irrelevant characters and scenes in a manuscript. Sometimes the only way to see them is after the prose has been tightened.
So my dear friends, readers, and writing voyeurs remember when it comes to editing and revising— everything is figureoutable. Find your root cellar and go, go, go!