Monday, September 28, 2009

An epiphany . . . of sorts

This morning I had an epiphany of sorts.

I actually got out of bed, showered, dressed, got breakfast, cleaned up the kitchen, started the laundry---get the picture? You do and you are saying, so what? We all do that, every day of our lives and we don’t even think about it.

But that is exactly the point. I didn’t either. At least, I didn’t until I lost my leg. Then I wondered if I would ever be able to do those things, or anything else, again without a struggle. Have just another day. And this morning, it happened.

I was thinking about other things, actually a great many other things, and I went through all of those meaningless tasks automatically. Of course, months of practice went into this morning. Hours at therapy, weeks of wheeling myself around in a chair, more learning to walk upright once more. And while I still have a long way to go, I’m a lot better.

Which made me think about writing. Or, more accurately, rewriting. Someone whose name escapes me once said, fiction isn’t written, it’s re-written. And that should be the first rule of writing. Accept the fact that if you want to be good, you are going to re-write. And why not?

Baseball players practice hitting and throwing until I’m sure they think their arms are going to fall off. Dancers practice one step over and over until their toes bleed. Good cooks quietly throw out as many dishes as they, finally, proudly serve. So what makes writers think they are so different?

The Carolina Conspiracy has been giving workshops lately, and Joyce and Jim Lavene have been talking about re-writing, how we need to get over our fear of the delete button, and they are right. Get out that red pen and take out all of the words, sentences, paragraphs, that don’t fit, read too long, or make the same point fifteen times. Take out that cute description about how the cat ripped out the back of the sofa. It doesn’t move the story forward, and, if truth be told, it isn’t all that cute.

Writers have to practice their craft just like the dancer, the ball player, and the cook. And just like I had to, learning to walk again. It takes time, our toes bleed, and the garbage can overflows with our failures, but if we keep at it, paring down those sentences, ruthlessly throwing out those little gems we thought were so great but in our heart of hears know aren’t, tightening up that plot and pouring our hearts and souls into making our characters live and breath, we will eventually produce something publishable.

Or, more important, something we are really proud of.

Kathlenn Delaney
And Murder for dessert

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