We all know the necessary and (sometimes) painful exercise of killing your darlings – to rip out the well-written but ill-fitting sections from the larger work. I keep files and files of them. A mausoleum of discarded ideas. I visit, occasionally. Probing around for a possible, but unlikely, resurrection.
Worse yet is discarding a structure. It’s like trying to transplant someone’s skeleton. Horribly intimidating at first, but if you can get past the floppy stage in the middle, the result is quite satisfying. Or at least, that’s the hope.
So whenever I’m confronted by major word-surgery, I’m reminded of something a former employer said.
As a senior in high school, I had a part time job knitting sweaters. I’m not kidding. I worked for a textile/fiber artist, Anne. It was the best part time job I ever had, by far.
Anyway, I often worked with a knitting machine – which is not so much a ‘machine’ as a giant rig allowing the user to knit with many needles at once. ‘Twas a fickle thing. Every now and again, for no apparent reason, a thread would abandon ship and slide off its needle. And if you didn’t catch it immediately, it would cause a hole to open up in the middle of the garment. And you’d have to start over.
But Anne was the Zen master. Whenever something like that happened, she’d say ‘It’s ok. Just stop, take a deep breath, practice swearing, then take it of the machine and try it again.’
I now use this advice for writing. Whenever I have to cut out my darlings and reconfigure everything I just spent so many hours on: stop, breath, swear, try again.
Thank you, Anne.
Want to see Anne’s art? Check out her website: http://steelwoolstudio.com/anne-alessi.htm