cutting back (soLs)
As a writer, I often “prune” my words. As Ralph Fletcher taught in one of his early books, it is often by cutting back the extra, wild, or dead parts that a flower flourishes. The same is true for our words.
I like to share this idea with students too. Young writers are often consumed with adding words. It’s a big shift to consider cutting back. Yet, writing well is just as much about what you don’t say as what you do say. Revising is just as much about adding for clarity as it is cutting for meaning. Still, it is hard.
Over the years I’ve learned to detach from my words. I’m willing to let them go because I know that’s how my writing flourishes. It is an art to write succinctly. It is a craft to cut.
Recently my writing life has been pruned. Not the words. The living. This has been a bit of a tough transition for me. I ache from being cut back. I’m learning to live a little leaner in my word count. I miss my comfortable routine. I’m floundering to find a new rhythm.
But I’m trusting the process. I know cutting back often results in stronger, more substantial, and deeper roots. I believe less is more. I’m confident this isn’t giving up, but rather growing out of my old writer skin.
So this month (and next month) I’m not putting quite so many words on the page. I’m not filling up notebooks as quickly. The spaces in my life are being filled with other good stuff. I’m documenting the moments. I’m dreaming of new writing paths. I’m settling into the stillness. I’m reminding myself that writing is an art.
And like all artistic endeavors the work ebbs and flows. I’ve been riding a strong writing wave for many years. Now I must be content to slow down. I must trust that I can still live as a writer even if I write a few less words. After all, it is impossible to stop the march of words. I can only slow them down and create space in my life for new learning and understandings.
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