Murdering My Darlings

An English author, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, coined the phrase “murder your darlings” to describe a good editing process. I’ve had to murder a lot of darlings while shaping my first draft, and I can only imagine how many darlings will meet destruction as the thing gets polished.

It’s hard! Especially when the darling in question is really–well, darling. Well-written. Poetic. Touching. A sentence, or paragraph, or even a chapter, that is wonderful writing but doesn’t belong where it is.

The chapters I wrote, one at a time, over the last two or three years contain a lot of writing that has to stay out of the book. Not because it isn’t good. It is. But the book has to have a story arc, and the content has to serve the arc. Not to mention issues around word count.

This week I cut the first chapter of the book. Just cut it, outright. I slipped a little exposition into what was Chapter Two, but all the writing from the previous Chapter One is gone. The book now begins in a completely different way.

Oh, darling. I’m so sorry.

Eating Disorders Have Weird Rules

Yes, lest those who read my stuff ever forget: I’ve lived with an eating disorder since I was thirteen or so. It coexists with my mental health issues and with my life as an addict in recovery. It’s there to a greater or lesser extent every day of my life.

I’ve been blessed in recent years with being able to take better care of my body in some ways. Many days are relatively free of compulsions, many other days are moderate, but a few still take me back to the worst days.

A couple of days ago, I felt myself teetering close to a binge and didn’t want to go there, so I tried to do some “harm reduction.” At the grocery store, I bought a couple boxes of artificially-sweetened treats (yuck) to bribe myself out of buying other things.

So there I am, yesterday, with a terrible stomachache from the treats my body is not liking. I decide, disgusted, that I don’t want them around any more. I don’t want them around tomorrow, because if they are around tomorrow, I will eat them and have another stomachache and feel like crap all day.

This where the awful rules kick in. You see, I am not allowed to throw the treats away. No. I bought them, I made that choice, and now I have to pay for it. If I don’t want them around tomorrow, there is only one allowable way to get rid of them. I have to eat them. All of them. Tonight.

I hate the rules.

Interrupted

I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by how far my two book projects have progressed…well, the universe found a cure for that! For two weeks, I’ve been flattened by a flare-up of my old back issues. On bad days I shuffle, stagger or crawl from bed to bathroom to recliner. My creativity is blotted out by pain and worse insomnia than usual. It’s frustrating as hell not to be able to do the dishes, take out the garbage, or even pick up things I drop.

In my counseling training, I met many folks who were in the field of “somatic psychology;” that is, the study of how the mind’s issues can affect the body. It’s a growing field, full of promise. But, like people in any field, students of this one can go to extremes. It made me crazy when anything from a sneeze to a sprained ankle caused classmates to start diagnosing some kind of emotional source.

That being said, mind/body connections are real…so am I somehow the author of this flare-up? Is there more going on than “shit happens?” Did my body arrange for me to be forced to take a break, to put everything on hold, to step away from all the “what now” questions about my manuscripts? All I can do is try to engage my thoughts with honesty as I heal from this.

Whether they are related or not, my mind and body both need to know that they don’t have to break down to get a break. Fallow periods are normal for any creative person. I’m allowed to have them without a physical or mental crisis existing as a reason.