Taking out the trash


I feel like a new woman today.

No, I didn’t get my hair done.
No, I didn’t get a new outfit. So why the big change?

I took out the garbage. All the garbage in my house. Even the garbage cans in the dark recesses of our rooms that nobody seems to notice but me. And I. Feel. Great! 

It’s funny how much easier it is to clean a room when I have an empty trash can. Such a silly little roadblock, but I already struggle with cleaning enough. When I see papers and apple cores waiting to topple over, I know it should motivate me, but it doesn’t. It just puts me over the edge. I sigh, look around, and think, “Ah, this can wait.” Because really, there are some things in life that are endlessly patient: dishes, laundry, and over-flowing garbage cans. Yet, when I finally dig in and just do it, I feel amazing and wonder what the heck was holding me back all that time. Seriously. It took me five minutes–not even five minutes. What is wrong with me? (rhetorical question, don’t answer that.)

Ironically on the same day I took out all the garbage, I accidentally erased all the track changes in my current manuscript. If you’re not sure what track changes is, it’s this great feature in Microsoft Word that enables word hoarders like myself to hold onto words long after they’ve been cut from the manuscript. I discovered this little feature a year into my writing and have wholly embraced it ever since. Before track changes, I mourned the loss of any phrase, funny quip, or perfect description that did nothing to further the plot. More often than not, I left them in. After track changes, I could hold onto these little snippets and set them safely in the margin, “Just in case.”

The manuscript I’m currently editing has a combined track changes history of nearly three years. Three years! I have no idea how many changes are in there. Probably as numerous as the sands of the sea. And now they’re gone. Gone!

(For those word hoarders out there like myself, never fear. I back up my documents every three days or so. The track changes still exist in a document somewhere in the black hole called my hard drive. Serious hoarding issues here.)

But it’s funny how liberating it was when I looked at that document and saw a clean margin. It felt like I could see the story again. Suddenly I was ready to buckle down and get to work. It felt amazing to finally let go–even if accidentally. So tell me (non-rhetorical question now), Why is taking out the garbage so hard to do?

I think a writer once said that in the creative process, we come up with ideas and concepts that we’re so happy with and so pleased with, it’s somewhat like having children. These words and ideas become our babies. We nurture them, protect them, and encourage them to grow. But we have to ask ourselves if they are really moving the story forward, if they’re really critical to what is happening. If they’re not, we have to be ruthless enough to jettison them, to drown our babies as it were. (I’ll try to find the actual quote and post it later because it’s great.)

Sadly, even with the obliteration of all my track changes, I still have some drowning to do.

I have the challenge today of wiping out a whole scene. A whole day actually. Gasp! I know. But the scene drags, it’s overflowing, and I can’t even bear to read it, let alone edit it. If it’s that bad for me, the creator, how bad will it be for readers? It has to go. I must take out the garbage. I must drown my babies (I thought about having this for the title of the blog, but then realized that taken out of context, it sounds kind of bad–okay, really bad). But I can do this. I can clean house, as it were. 


Unless I can tweak the scene and fix it. Maybe add a little–NO! I will remain determined! That scene is history. It is time to take out the trash, drown some babies. Whatever. I can do this!

: )


But I like my babies.

: |

Another sigh. 

But it must be done.

: (

I have issues.

Anyone else have this issue? Any suggestions for me?

5 thoughts on “Taking out the trash

  1. Yes, I knew you would understand this post–probably more than anyone. I might add that every time you keep a word I'm cheering. LOL. Between the two of us, you'd think we'd work out a happy balance.


  2. I prefer to think of it as putting in the hard work of parenting your story as a whole, it's so much less…homicidal than "drowning your babies" ;) Just put that scene in time out! A really long, extended time out.


  3. Parenting my story. I like that. And yes, drowning your babies is a little harsh. :) This scene needs more than a time out I'm afraid, because I'm too much of a softy. I think I'll just kick it out of the house and hope I've made the right choice. Oh the pain!


  4. Oh yeah I know how you feel, cutting scenes out always feels weird for me too! Like I've taken the time to write it and all, but it just doesn't fit. And my trash can is pretty full too, I just don't feel like taking it out :/ but it's been bugging me too haha.


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