I just had to get a little firm (okay, totally pissed off, I admit it) with my 9-year-old son. He hates to throw clothes/shoes (or really anything else) away. You’d think we were destitute if he was allowed to use things/wear things until he deemed them “unusable.”
Case in point: Sneakers, minus the toes. They went from fine one day to a mangled mess the next. So, while he was wearing said toeless shoes to school (no doubt earning our family the “Oh, my God, those poor people” look), I went and bought him a new pair of shoes.
Until my son came along, I never knew there was such a thing as children who don’t like new things! Seriously. He would rather wear high-water pants that make him look like Urkel than get rid of a pair of pants he loves. He would rather play with a broken toy than get a new one (Great for saving money when this involves toys. Embarrassing as hell when it involves clothing or shoes). My teen daughter would buy new shoes daily, just to say she had them. Out with the old, in with the new, is her motto.
So, anyway, I buy the new shoes and have to force him to try them on. You’d have thought I asked him to eat brussel sprouts. He finally drags himself back to my room, stands in front of me looking like a child who’s just lost a cherished pet or something. It took three times of asking for him to even tell me that he was waiting for me to look at the new shoes. They fit, they look great, end of story.
Not. Now we have to fight about what to do with the old ones. “Toss them in the garbage,” I say. “NO!” He says. He’s going to save them for playing outside. I remind him that the last time he played outside it was 2002. (No, seriously, that’s a whole ‘nother blog.) He says he’ll use them for hiking. (We don’t hike.) He says, he’ll just put them in his closet. I say he’ll just put them in the garbage if he doesn’t want to end up in very big trouble.
Next thing I know, he’s wiping away tears (which he steadfastly denies when asked why he’s crying about a falling apart pair of too-small shoes). I’m completely at a loss as to why he gets so attached to things. In the case of the shoes, it’s not like he’s had a chance to become attached or anything. As fast as the kid grows, you’d think he’d be used to the idea that these things are only temporary. That some things just have to go to make way for others.
So, how does this relate to writing? I’ve been rereading the most recent scenes in my WIP. I know they need to go. I know they aren’t right. Something is old and worn about them. I may have written them a month ago, but I’ve been hanging onto them for dear life, like if I let them go I won’t be able to replace them. And yet, I see the holes, the worn edges, the roughness. But, I keep refusing to throw them in the trash. (Maybe I need a mommy to tell me if I don’t throw them out I’m going to end up in very big trouble.)
This works the same way with manuscripts. How many writers would rather start a new ms without finishing the old, because we like the new stuff, but aren’t willing to finish off the old because that would mean putting it away? Me. Lots of my writing friends. You, probably.
Here’s to learning to let go of the old to move on to the new…whether it be a whole manuscript or just a sucky scene.