“Everything you release frees you.”
The heat today was very intense. I managed to walk my dog Ryder just before the sky opened up and a torrential downpour swept the streets cooling the air. The thunder and lightning scared Ryder, but the rain was certainly a blessing. The sense of relief and release as the air unburdened itself of all that heat was almost palpable. Everything: the grass, the sky, the air itself seemed to breathe again. You know the feeling, I’m sure.
Release is on my mind today, because I just spent several hours going through a major section of my YA novel. After reading six chapters or so with a fresh eye, it’s very clear that I have some major revising to do. And some of that involves letting go of things I’ve written that I like, but that don’t really work.
I remember reading that Joyce Carol Oates loves the revising stage in her fiction writing. Getting the first draft together — messy and misshapen — is the hardest part of the process for her. She enjoys taking that confusing mass of ideas that she poured into her first draft and shaping it into something. It’s a structural challenge that she finds enjoyable.
I’m working hard to get into that mindset, but frankly, I’m just the opposite of Joyce. I’m a newbie on the novel front, but I’ve found that I love the freedom and fun and unfetteredness of getting a first draft together. My mind and my imagination can roam across the page — whatever I say, goes. I’m the Lady of All Creation — it’s a juicy, jazzy role and I love it!
Rolling up my sleeves and pruning my prose is something else again. While I enjoy the results of tweaking and tightening, I find this stage very challenging. But as I sharpen my pencil and get to work, it helps if I remind myself of something my Dharma teacher said: “everything you release frees you.” The more unneeded words and scenes I let go of, the stronger and more fluid my work becomes. So let’s prune and prosper!