Editing is the Perfect Diet.

edgarwineDisclaimer: I’m no Hemingway. I don’t write drunk. I fall asleep after one glass of wine–on the sofa, with five or six of my closest friends. But I will admit to sharing a cold chardonnay with Edgar Rice Burro from time to time.

I’m just like most women. My longest relationship is with some extra weight I carry. We have broken up and gotten back together more times than I can remember. Dieting gave me a bad reputation, we were too obsessed with each other,  and I let his opinions have too much power. So eventually I let him go and decided to make friends with myself instead. Almost anything is healthier than a diet that punishes and isolates, and there’s much less guilt to carry this way.

My writing process is not any more gazelle-like. The first draft of anything I write is fat and lumbering. It isn’t very smart; it has a tendency to crouch in the corner and mumble. It dresses cheap in baggy-in-the-butt jeans with high-water pant legs. An old T-shirt with a faded feminist symbol–the kind no one has worn since 1972. And patent leather church shoes. I just get the awkwardness down on paper.

What I love about editing is that it’s the perfect diet. I settle in and brandish my utensils. First, I take out all the junk food words that add no nutrition for the reader. Then I add brightly colored vegetable words that catch the eye, and in the middle is a strong source of protein–an idea that deserves being chewed on for a while. I use spices, hoping to season the reader’s emotions. I go slow and serve every bite precisely. And I am never finished without a small bit of chocolate at the end. I’m dorky that way.

It takes time, but in the end, my writing is wearing a little black dress with an outlandish scarf and barn boots. Never quite in style, but quirky enough to pass.

(A little heavy-handed with the metaphor? Fair enough, even if it is my bread and butter. Oops, metaphor abuse again.)

Eight weeks since the submissions flew in all directions. (Biting my tongue here, metaphor binge avoided.)

And this week, just a short email came that a publisher is sharing my submission with “a few people.” He has the synopsis and two chapters to share, so again a tiny nibble. I am so aware of the precious time required to read a full book. I understand that with hundreds of submissions, little publishing would get done if everything was fully read. On the other hand, judgment in just two chapters?

*It won’t be long now.*

To my friends here–doing this dance of waiting and wishing in full view does feel vulnerable to me, but nothing like it will feel when the book is actually out in the world, handled by strangers who are not as kind as all of you have been. Thank you so much for waiting here with me. Your comments have been great, too.

This week’s question is this: Is there some metaphor for a diet in your life that works for you? Something that makes you more, and not less, than your very best?


  1. Great question. “Portion control.” I can actually eat anything I want – it’s just all about managing proportions. I can have Godiva chocolate – I just have to limit myself to one truffle (which I buy all by itself and wander away from the store nibbling, with a cup of tea or coffee in the other hand – heaven.) The metaphor? Maturing, to me, has meant learning that everything is best when it’s balanced – not too much to one extreme or the other. I’ve learned to see life not in black-and-white, but in the gray areas. Many people are uncomfortable there, I know – they want things clear-cut and either all black or all white. We crave sound-bites. (There’s that metaphor again.) Because it’s easier, and because we don’t have to do anything. But real life – truth – reality – lie in the shaded nuances of gray; a little to the left of black, a little to the right of white: somewhere in there. Finding it can be hard mental exercise, but the rewards are of course great, as they always are with exercise.
    So to also be heavy-handed: if you eat too much of a single thing, even if it’s your favorite thing, it begins to make you sick. Finding health is finding the balances in things. What I call, portion control.


    • See what I mean? Great comments. I agree, sometimes with nostalgia for the old black and white days of youth. Gray maturity is better, more compassionate. Thank you for this spectacular comment!


  2. I have a couple. (1) Perfection is not the Holy Grail we’d like to think it is. Unfortunately, we can get so caught up in the business of perfecting ourselves that we miss the whole point entirely. We end up worrying about how well we ride, how good we look or what kind of impression we make that it sucks the joy right out of our life. The older I get the less I think about outcomes. That’s not to say I won’t set a few goals or work to improve something, but I don’t worry about the minutia of it all. In other words, (2) less is more.

    And squeeeee on the publishing nibble! 🙂


  3. “Eat real food”–what your self asks for, when it asks for it, and how much it asks for; your self knows what it’s doing. Eschew the “processed food” of someone else’s ideas about the world, or some industrially engineered pablum that substitutes for intellectual integrity. That’s not right for you; it’s only right for them–or for no one because it was designed to try to please everyone. Living authentically starts with attending to what we are, and what we need, listening to ourselves and speaking CLEARLY with our own voices. And like eating true to ourselves, when we live authentically, we feel so much better.


    • I am not sure when I first heard the phrase Live Authentically, or why it is so powerful, but it is. It’s rule #1 with memoir. Space zombie romance travelogs, not so much. Great comment, so true. Thanks.


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