My third contribution to the Savvy Authors blog just happened to fall on the same day I plan to move from my apartment to a house, and about a week before I have to return the latest revisions on my next novel’s manuscript. I couldn’t resist the metaphor, of course, so the piece compares the grueling tasks of deciding whether to keep, toss, or give away our stuff to the equally grueling task of deciding whether to keep, toss, or revise our words. Here’s an excerpt:
The idea of determining the fate of every item in my home is overwhelming. Books, papers, blankets, dishes, pictures on my refrigerator, business cards I’ve collected, radios, spoons, a chef’s apron sent by a friend in Switzerland, the local bus schedule, the leftover Halloween candy, office supplies, extra pillows, the growler bottles leftover from my first book party, old birthday and holiday cards, a bottle cap with a saying from Gandhi (“the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others”) that I found on a bottle of iced tea during a very difficult time in my life, a bizarre collection of key chains, multiple flash drives, an old Rolling Stone with David Bowie on the cover: which do I keep? Which do I give away? Which of these items are cherished keepsakes, and which are trash? In the middle of wading through it all, I lose my ability to discern. I fight equally powerful urges to throw it all in a box and move it and deal with it later, and to throw it all in the garbage and pretend I never owned it.
And if we are honest, we writers, that’s often what the process of revision feels like, too. Every page, paragraph, sentence, and word creates the need for discernment: keep it, rewrite it, move it, or delete it. But which of these words and phrases are cherished keepsakes, and which are trash? How do we tell?