The decision to cut

rescued 3With the wild weather this past weekend, I had to decide whether to pick my first crop of Queen of Night tulips.  I have loved looking at them from the chair where I sit to write, and so it was tempting to risk leaving them out rather than shorten their lives by bringing them into the warm house.

As it began to rain I watched through the window.  The tulips closed in on themselves, grew darker and even more beautiful.  They shrugged the first raindrops from their slender shoulders, but soon they were waving about wildly in the wind.

I ran for the scissors and dashed outside. In the few seconds it took to cut them, my hair was dripping water.  On the verandah, I turned them upside down and gently shook them. Inside, safe in a vase, I placed them where they could admire their own elegant curves in the old hall mirror; they looked different indoors, but still mysterious, still lovely.

The painful decision to cut them was over with in a few seconds, pushed along by the approaching storm.  It reminded me of how I sometimes agonise over deleting a piece of writing that might have taken me as long to put down on the page as it took the Queen of Night tulips to flower. But I have a strategy for dealing with it, which is to open a blank word document, paste in the deleted passage and save.

There is a quote from the write Jean Rhys that has always stuck in my mind: “All problems {with a piece of writing} can be resolved by cutting.” This advice has stood me in good stead over the years, and just last week, in a conversation with the editor who worked with me on my novels, I learned that she associates this wisdom with the period we spent editing, and that it has also served her well.

I’ve heard that D.H. Lawrence once scrapped a full draft of one of his novels, just threw the whole thing away and started over from scratch. He might have done it more than once with the same manuscript.  If anyone knows which of his novels it was, or anything more about the story, I would love to hear it.

The decision to cut something you’ve sweated over is always a difficult one, but I’m sure my Queens of the Night would agree with Jean Rhys (whose novels are as darkly beautiful as themselves) that it is better to cut and move to another location than to stand stubbornly in place and risk being shredded.

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This entry was published on August 22, 2013 at 1:39 pm. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

One thought on “The decision to cut

  1. Lovely piece – and clever analogy! I do the same, putting cuts into a blank document. It makes me feel more able to ‘kill your babies’ as we used to say on my creative writing MA. Often these cuts become parts of a new story, and they enable me to make the current piece better as well. That last line says it all really: cut rather than get shredded!!

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