The other day I took my kids to Wal-Mart. As it was a Tuesday at 9:30 A.M., the place wasn’t busy and I had literally five items to buy from one section so I decided to let the kids walk beside the cart rather than getting the big parent cart and strapping them in. Parents, babysitters, etc. probably know that this is a risky endeavor.
It went great. No running away, no meltdowns, no yanking things off shelves. But, as I reflected on the trip, I thought about the individual moments and how looking at one of them alone, might change that perception.
For instance, a couple passed by as my kids were following me single file, smiling and chatting. They told me my kids were cute. In the cereal aisle, my son wandered toward the oncoming lane and when I called to him, he looked at me and got distracted enough to wander further that direction, blocking the path of a dad pushing his cart. I apologized and, though he wasn’t upset, we obviously slowed him down. When my kids stopped and waited for a woman to pass she complimented me on my “well-behaved children” but when I had to usher my kids forward as they dawdled in the parking lot momentarily preventing a driver from backing out, I got a glare.
So, how does this relate to writing? I’m not the type who can write without looking back over my work as I go. And sometimes, as I’m doing this, I love what I see. Sometimes, I’m disgusted. I might say, “Yes! This is why I’m doing this! I can turn this into something great!” and then “Oh, God. I should just do the world a favor and quit, now!”
Writing can be like shopping with children. There are great moments where your dialogue is perfect and your kids calmly accept the fact that they can’t have that candy. There are terrible moments when you’ve gone adverb-crazy and your kids spend ten minutes sobbing in the produce section because you took their gloves off.
The difference is important, though. I look back on that shopping trip as an overall success and I let go of the imperfect moments because that’s life and that’s parenting. But, in my writing I have the chance the fix the imperfect moments. When I look back and feel disheartened by something “icky” in my manuscript, I can simply mark it to be edited later. I can work at it until it is where I want it to be.
Ergo, writing is better than life, because you can change the past and learn from it, too. Embrace that and edit away!