I find myself frustrated tonight for something that is in actuality a great honor. Tomorrow I will be presenting one of my short stories at a symposium at Sul Ross State University. A creative work will be presented and considered alongside more traditional scholarly research. This wasn’t something I applied for–I was asked to present by a professor I admire immensely. I should be nervously gleeful.
Instead I am irritated and reluctant for reasons of my own stupid vanity. While I am grateful for the opportunity to present my work, it also means I must cut a 5,000 word piece to roughly 2,000 words. Somehow I must tell the story I intended in less than half the original length. Can it be done? Sure. But at what cost? What goes and what stays? Do I keep the parts that showcase the intertextuality of the piece and attention to detail through research? Or do I focus on the parts that are the most stylistically strong? In presenting to a room full of academics, what impression do I want them to take away?
The bigger issue, however, is the pain of cutting. This particular piece was a painstaking creation that I am exceptionally proud of (not something I can say about all my work). I feel each cut because I did spend so much time putting the components together in such a specific way.
Stephen King believes that there is no line so brilliant that you can’t let it go. Deep down I know this. It’s not even that I think the piece is so perfect it defies editing–I pride myself on taking constructive criticism (sometime I will post the story of the one word that an editor and I grappled with over the course of half a dozen emails). But in this case I’m not really editing for improvement; I’m editing for time constraints.
And so I haphazardly hack away at my work, resorting to cutting two word sentences in the hope of saving longer, more complex sections, constantly reminding myself that I am not deleting them from existence, just from a presentation.
It reminds me of something I always tell my students about editing–if you love something, don’t completely delete it. Make yourself a trash file and copy/paste it in. Maybe that particular passage won’t work in the current project, but someday you might create something it will work in.