Monday, February 25, 2013

Letting Go.


My husband calls me an “obsessively organized hoarder.”  I keep things, lots of things.  The book shelves in our living room are lined with scrapbooks marking every, single event in my children’s lives.  I have a bureau in my closet.  Each child has a drawer.  Tucked inside are tiny momentous that I can’t part with – a lock of hair from their first haircut, the first outfit they ever wore, the first tooth they ever lost.  I even have a chest of high school memories in our basement, everything in there carrying some emotional memory.  Although I will never part with these things, writing has taught me a lesson about letting go.

I am a constant reviser, always looking for ways to make my stories stronger, more powerful.  In order to do that, I have to let go of some of my favorite lines, some of the scenes that I poured days of creative energy into.  I worry, I delete and re-add, I move around and then eventually I cut them for good and move on.  They still exist, just in a separate folder on my laptop titled “Jilted Scenes.” 

As hard as it is to delete a scene, it’s even more difficult to set aside an entire manuscript, to know that no matter much I love the story, it’s just not going to happen.   I've had to make this agonizing decision three times, put aside one manuscript for another.  Trust me, it never gets easier.  Two still sits on my hard drive, one my husband had leather-bound for me as a gift.  That one resides on my bookshelf next to my scrapbooks.

And finally control.  If this crazy, roller-coaster of an industry has taught me anything, it’s that I have to let go of my need for control.  I have no say in who likes my manuscript and who will think it is an unmarketable concept.  I can’t control how fast my projects are read or who they get passed to within the publishing houses.   And I certainly can’t dedicate my position in the slushpile or make an agent/editor respond faster.   All I can do is wait patiently for answers that will eventually come.

So now, rather than obsessing over things I can't control, I simply let them go and re-focus my energy on my next project . . . or perhaps cleaning out the refrigerator.

14 comments:

  1. Amen! I hear you about setting aside a manuscript or cutting scenes. SO hard. My hubby is pushing me to go indie and side step the lines and rejections. If your goal is just to be read, it's not a bad route to consider. If, however, your life hinges on being published by an established company, so you have all the bragging rights to go with it, well, then patience is your middle name.

    With all the reading I've done of both indie and traditional stories, I've come to one conclusion: If you love your story, the passion will shine through and readers will love it too.

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  2. I think passion is what drives us authors to peservere. Couldn't have said it better, Thanks Crystal

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  3. I'm the same way! Even when a scene gets cut and put in a separate folder, I'm still consumed with the notion of saving it. "Maybe it would work better in this WIP..."

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    1. I have actually reused some of them, tweaked, rewritten, etc and fit them into other manuscripts.

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    1. It was a lesson that a fought all the way, but well worth learning.

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  5. this is something every writer struggles with...we just have to figure out when it's the right time to put a project aside, i think that's the hardest part for me. Letting go can definitely be difficult.

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    1. they never really go away though. I mean I still think about my discarded characters every now and then.

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  6. I don't know that I've quite got this art down yet. And I'm terrible at saving my extricated scenes in any logical order, so they're all in one big messy file. Oops. Oh well, at least they're still there! Once I've removed 'em I hardly ever add them back again.

    As for hoarding, yeah. I've been there. But I'm heaps better nowadays and it feels so good. I do tend to accumulate crap once I've settled in any new home though, so in current preparation for moving house again I am once more shedding stuff I've kept for no good reason.

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    1. Moving helps... I know each time we've moved, I've taken less stuff with me and what I do takes gets organized into scrapbooks or chests.

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    2. Wow. Yes. This. It's so hard to see if editing has improved the piece. Sometimes I get the feeling I've made things worse. You've just got to trust your gut.

      Gut is all we have.

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  7. It is hard deleting those scenes and dialogue we've given so much time, energy, and emotion creating! Even when we know it's best for the story, it's never easy. Good thing we can cut and paste it into a scrap document just in case!

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  8. I think it's cute you keep all those mementos and great that you know yourself so well. Acceptance is key, isn't it? I'm sure that after you're pubbed, the shelved ms's will come out and get sold, too! Good luck - wishing you all the best! :-)

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