Monday, October 21, 2013

An Edited Life

[Note: I regret that I have not been blogging all summer and into the fall. Fools that we are, my wife and I entered the insane mid-2013 real estate market, selling our home (or trying to) and finally purchasing a townhouse. The whole crazy process wiped six months off my writing life. This new post addresses just one of many lessons learned from the whole experience.]

Downsizing means just that. The capacity for all things material is reduced in proportion to the "down." For me, this meant tossing a lot of my treasured "stuff" overboard: clothing, books, priceless junk, 40-year-old lesson plans . . . .  The image that kept coming to me was that moving was a lot like editing one of my manuscripts.

The first draft looks like the three-car garage we had at our former house. To fit both cars and all our excess stuff into a smaller home and a two-car garage required a lot of editing. In a manuscript, there are the usual suspects quickly sentenced to extinction: 'ly' adverbs, bloated adjectives, those other dead-weight adverbs (like 'very' and 'very, very'). Then there are those nasty, unnecessary duplications (the reader already knows this, so why say it again).

One would think that a professional editor would be a natural at tossing and downsizing. I suppose there is some inbred advantage. But then there are those 'little darlings' that have been with me for half-a-century. I appeal to Caesar (actually, my wife Esther) for mercy. Her thumb goes down without a second's hesitation. But I just can't pull the trigger. They make the cut, though every bit of my brain matter admits that she is right.

And so, it never fails that, when I read my book in print, I wish I had listened to the editor in me rather than the sentimental hoarder.

Alfred J. Garrotto is the author of the novel

(c) 2013 by Alfred J. Garrotto


  1. I love this! Gerry and I are true minimalists as you know, our life could fit in our car! It is a refreshing way of life, but we were in your shoes at one point I am sure. For me, as a young adult. So first one way to preserve memories AND tossing we do with the kids is take photos of their artwork and such and put it on a flash drive, so it's not forever lost if we want it later ;-) Second, here is an awesome blog we follow. Every post is so rich! Good luck to you my friend! Peace, Andrea Murphy

  2. Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving a note. I'm nowhere near the minimalist you guys are. But aren't we all fully edited once the last word is written, the period affixed, the cover closed?

  3. This is an endless process. I left a 2,500 sq. ft. house in Michigan for a 1,002 sq. ft. house in the Bay Area. I never rented a storage unit! I try to remember the following: if I bring something into my house that's permanent, something must be taken out. If I ditch something, it's one less thing that my son has to deal with at my inevitable end. You spend the first half of your life acquiring things and the next half trying to get rid of them.

  4. I love the analogy, Al. Great job! It's hard enough to edit my manuscripts without editing my life.

    I bought my condo in 1983, intending to live here alone, but I've made space for both a husband and a dog. We have more than our share of clutter. At least my computer is somewhat organized. If I were overly organized, I'd miss out on a lot of important things.

  5. Thanks to my writing colleagues for sharing their "edited life" experiences.