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.