Seeing The Forest AND The Trees

Last night I dreamed I had a job interview. Of sorts. We were at a Tim Horton’s for a chat and she got me a cookie when she was getting herself a coffee. It was kind of informal. But an interview nonetheless.

And I think it went pretty well, which – of course it did, because it was my dream and existed entirely inside of my head. I remember I was fighting tears as I gave a couple of answers (one about teaching, and one about my current job), but I worked hard to answer honestly, and it felt kind of like a release after. Getting some of that stuff out felt good, even if it wasn’t real. I realized one of my problems might be that I often see the big picture, as well as the details. I see the whole forest AND the trees, which can be overwhelming sometimes. There is the universal struggle to find balance, but added to it is the understanding that it’s an impossible line to walk. You see all the things to do, how each of them affects the whole, and all of the things not done. Because they can’t all be accounted for. You can see all the trees, but you can’t give each of them the individual attention they need at all times. I think it’s what made teaching hard for me, and what makes my current job difficult, as well. It drives me crazy sometimes.

Well…crazier.

I also realized I was behaving kind of like an abused animal – one who has forgotten that human kindness exists. She bought me a cookie and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. Which is somewhat true of me in real life, really, so that was interesting to me this morning, as well.

Anyway, what I really want to talk a bit about today is writing. I haven’t been doing a lot of it lately – this blog aside, of course – but I have been doing a lot of mental preparation for more new writing, as well as editing of things previously written. Last night was one of the more painful examples of the editing process, as I needed to get a short story down to under a certain word count, and I wasn’t a huge fan of what I knew I had to do to get it there.

There was a section of text that I’d written a long time ago – a scene that was one of the first conceived when I thought about writing the story to begin with. I loved that scene. I remember working harder on that one segment than on any other part of the story. Even as I was going over it more recently, I found little ways to tweak it and make it even better. The words flowed, the imagery was strong and beautiful and felt like it came out of some long-buried piece of my heart.

And last night I deleted it. The whole thing.

I knew it wasn’t necessary to move the story forward, and that I could get from A to C without needing B taking up more words, even though they were so very pretty. So I deleted B. And as all writers know, B is for Baby. I killed my Baby.

I did it quickly – didn’t give it one final read-through or anything. I just highlighted the whole section and hit the Delete key and then reminded myself to breathe again. And it was fine. It’s fine. The story is better for it. I think. Pretty sure, anyway.

Hoping to get it sent out later today, too, so that will feel good. It’ll feel complete.

That’s a weird thing about writing, hey? Most tasks require you to add more or do more or achieve more in order for it to be complete. Yet with writing, you build it all up, and then the sense of completion comes only after you take enough away; subtract from. Delete. Sometimes you go back and add things – dialogue, description, even entire scenes. But even those aren’t done until you’ve edited them and tightened them up and taken away the unnecessary.

Writing can be like sculpting, in that sense. The art of subtraction.

There’s probably a life lesson in that, but I don’t want to discuss it right now. I’ve killed my Baby – that’s enough subtraction and sadness for the moment!

Another thing that came up yesterday and got me thinking had to do with Carving The Light, my first novel. My Facebook memory feed gave me a look back on my imaginary dream cast for the no-doubt-Oscar-winning film adaptation of the book, with a few different suggestions for each major character.

Since those days, though, I’ve actually gotten to know many crazy-talented artists, and I started thinking it might be fun to dream-cast THEM into the imaginary film. At the risk of desperately wanting to shoot such a film, it could be very interesting to see what I come up with. My mind has already been working on it a bit, but that’ll be a post for another day. The important thing – for this entry – is that there is a tiny twinge of excitement inside me surrounding the idea of revisiting the imaginary cast with people I actually know. Even just talking to Tim about it a few minutes ago got me all wound up about it again.

In addition, there’s something about having people I am more familiar with in mind for certain characters that makes me want to tweak the characters and/or the story itself more – not necessarily cater any part of it to any of them, but to make it better on the whole. Flesh out the trees, improve the entire forest. Somehow, the idea of certain people in certain roles makes the story more concrete in my mind, and therefore I can already see ways of improving the overall piece.

There is definitely something there.

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