Scraps

My social media feeds are an avalanche of cooking posts—complaints about out of stock flour, tea and potatoes (the Apocalypse calls for carbs), pictures of freshly baked bread, laments about the endless dishwashing, and tales of quarantine cooking.

My favorite are the posts about using up leftovers and scraps. Mostly because I am forever battling leftovers and the march of time. And partly because using up bits and scraps and odds and ends gives life to my strange, frugal heart.

My strange, frugal heart has served me well as writer. I can get miles of plot out of one tiny incident. The mundane inspires me more than over the top. I like servants and shepherds and obscure poets; keep your emperors and most powerful sorceresses. But in one way, my strange, frugal heart has stymied my writing.

Well, two really. But I’m only going to talk about one right now. No sense in wasting a topic for another post. Stymied issue, the first! Cutting, editing, killing those oh-so-darling darlings. I’m not someone who is overly in love with my writing, but if I wrote something that was “good enough” to pass through a couple of drafts or two, it used to be difficult for me to cut “that good writing”.

Oh, the rending unto my strange, frugal heart such work caused. What if it makes sense down the line to have it here, what if I do a total re-write and that’s the lynchpin of the new vision, what if that’s the only “good writing” I’ve managed so far. Add in dozens more “what ifs” born of worrywart and giving-into-fear and, despite my tendency to write lean, spare prose, each necessary cut sapped way too much emotional energy—especially when the truth of the situation was for most of the cut stuff, two weeks later, I couldn’t even recall what had been excised.

Fighting with myself over it, using cold hard facts as motivation and self-shaming couldn’t get me to easily edit. So my scraps-loving self created a workaround. When I make a .doc  for a new story, I also create a second .doc called [title of work]’s scraps.

Into that .doc goes all the stuff I need to cut, but fret that I may need or want again. (spoiler alert: I’ve very,very,very rarely ever rescued anything from the scrap .doc). It’s a thousand times easier to move writing than it is to delete it. Way less self-induced drama. Honors my strange, frugal heart and in return my strange, frugal heart keeps gifting me with strange and lovely little tales.

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