Rediscovery Through Revision

My life needs editing.
— Mort Sahl

My husband and I are in the process of pitching and packing up seventeen years of life and condensing our large footprint into something much smaller—like 4,000 square feet smaller. We raised three children in this house. Hosted numerous parties, holidays, graduations and showers. Through it all we’ve accumulated enough memorabilia and junk to fill every nook and cranny of our home. We’re leaving the Titanic for a rowboat.


While piling up the “saves” and the “give-a-ways” I’ve entered that R zone in the act of purging: rediscovery—reflection—rejection—rejuvenation. Basically called revision in the writer’s world, because along with editing my house I’m also wielding the writing ax to my new novel.

The cruelest part of editing is realizing all the mistakes I made. In the bad first draft of my novel there are the redundancies, clichés, and awful unauthentic dialogue. It’s cringe-worthy reading sprinkled with a sense of doom in how much time I have devoted to something not worth the felled trees it took to print it on. (This is the norm for most writers!)

Then there is the editing of the closets, of drawers, and cupboards full of memories and bad purchasing habits. Yes, the coexistence of writing and editing and moving and editing has taken over my life, and right now not in a good way.

William Faulkner wrote, “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” Meaning the writer can’t keep words on the page just because they’re pretty, powerful, or poetic if they don’t advance the story. Same with cleaning out the closets. That lovely jacket I bought two falls ago with the tags still on it? It never fit right. Oh, but it’s too good to toss, I tell myself, and I paid too much to give it away. And yet, I know, the shoulders are too narrow and it will NEVER fit the way I want it to.

So, everyday for three weeks I’ve been killing the darlings. Some days the editing and purging seems hopeful, other days just plain sad. It’s possible but, more times than not, difficult to take things apart and rearrange it into something you’re proud to show. But in the end I know it’s all worth it. In the end comes the realization that the most important stuff to hang onto is what moves our stories along and to leave behind the extraneous stuff of writing and life that sinks the ship.