You’re not God and this is not the Bible

Change is an uncomfortable process, especially for a self-righteous Lutheran. The answer, “because we’ve always done it that way,” is very popular where I’m from. So is, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s that stubborn resolution to remain constant in the inevitable face of change. It comes from stalwart farmers who refuse to back down from the elements and bitterly judge folks who try try sully their traditions with “progress.” “Different” is a derogatory term here.

Yet things must “progress” anyway or nothing gets done. This is especially true in writing. No matter what you write, until it’s printed, until the control of the story is out of your hands, things must change.

Writers are artists. Writing is an act of personal self expression, just like painting, composing, sculpting, etc. In some ways that’s wonderful. A writer plays with rhythms in dialog. A writer sculpts a description with a plethora of adjectives at their disposal, weaving metaphors and clever turns of phrase through their story. A well written story will emotionally move a reader, much in the same way a well composed song will move a listener. It’s a work of art.

There in lies the rub. Because writers are artists, they are stubborn about changing stuff, sometimes even a single word. That word is beautiful. That word makes the whole paragraph, maybe the whole thought. How dare anyone have the audacity to mess with that word. It’s sacred.

Um, no it’s not. It’s just a word. A paragraph is just a group of words that progress a story. And a story is only as good as it’s reception. If you want to live in a cave like Gollum; clinging to your “precious” story, savoring every word like it’s air, and reveling in your own self-importance, that’s your business. If you want your work to be appreciated by others, to be “received” publicly, you must be willing to change it.

Your story will only become something that deserves an audience if you allow it to evolve. It needs to molt off all those precious descriptions. It needs to pair down all that witty banter, and it needs to streamline all those thoughtful metaphors. A word is only sacred when it has earned its keep in the valuable real estate that is your story.

In the words of my people: “Don’t put on airs. Who are you trying to impress anyway?”


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