Often we lose things we really, really don’t want to lose. Whether its our keys, wallets, cell phones, or favorite sweaters, we humans rarely enjoy losing things. Sometimes, though, we do look forward to loss; as Mary Sutton explained earlier this month, losing our fear can be a really good thing. But, by losing, we can achieve something else entirely, something not necessarily good or bad:
Stay with me on this. I’ve been trying to develop some new habits, particularly to fit regular exercise into my routine (as a result of getting ever closer to that mid-point between 40 and 50, when everything biological seems to go haywire). To help me with this, I joined an online program called the 12 Week Total Body Transformation. I’ve failed miserably at this program (mostly because, I think, the only time I can exercise is 5:30 a.m. and “Pamela” will never be found near “morning person” in any dictionary). The idea is that participants will reduce their calorie intake, increase their exercise, lose weight, and build muscle, the combination of which will transform our bodies into something more preferable, stronger, leaner, healthier.
The idea of transformation is so appealing! Caterpillars transform into butterflies, seeds into plants, and so on. But, the caterpillar loses the privilege of being one in order to become a butterfly, right? It loses that which makes it a caterpillar in order to become the butterfly.
As a writer, the act of losing things can transform my story into something better, worse, or simply different. The losing, in and of itself, carries no inherent shine or dullness; what matters is what I choose to lose, and how. For instance, perhaps my story is bogged down by too many details. I’ve lost momentum or clarity, and by losing a few extraneous elements, the story is made stronger, clearer, better than it was before. If I lose the ghosts in the graveyard, the story moves from paranormal thriller to thriller; not better or worse, just different. Perhaps I snip a plot line, and my writers’ group cries foul and insists I put it back, as I’ve ruined the relationship between two key characters, and spoiled the story.
The losses may be painful (“but I love those ghosts!”) or not (“oh, thank goodness I don’t have to learn any more about taxidermy”), but each loss has the potential to transform my work. If I’m thoughtful about it, those losses will result in a much better story.
Now, if only transforming the body by losing a few inches was as easy!