Friday, November 20, 2015

How do you edit Life - when you're a writer?

It’s not the writing that’s difficult, it’s the deleting. Every one of us has a story that defies the rules of logic and sanity. Every character from my friend with the four cats that hiss at me and walk across her kitchen table, to Dan with the dimples and the plaid scarf; each one in our life creates a character to be delved into. Each action pulled from the past or from a snippet from a passerby, strangely interwoven until even I as the writer have to frown in consternation, was he real or did I make him up entirely?

How gallantly my thoughts can fly from the mundane everyday tasks to psychotic wild behaviour that we’ve all experienced with colleagues. How were you to know that medication at the proper dosage was so important to their well-being? Did you know that no amount of pandering can guarantee tenure? 

From friends left at road-side check stops with a dog too small
for protection to walking across a farmer’s field in Saskatchewan (and then turning up dead in the spring), real life can make you cry.

Chattering non-sensibly, non-stopping, never take a breath people exist. So do young people driven from their homes to escape the unspeakable, they tote their belongings in a Safeway shopping cart and cover it with plastic to keep it dry. We watch as we drink our coffee at Analog and lick our fingers after the almond croissant we share. We give them two warm Subway sandwiches and watch them gobble up the cookie first. 

They haunt my dreams for the next few days, and I stop and think oh please don't let that happen to anyone I know.

They exist, the real people. The ones with no schedule to reach the top of the ladder and make the highest on the pay scale. They paint and play music on street corners, climb up on to bar stools at 3pm and eat chicken wings on Wednesdays.

They exist in hospital wards in wrinkled gowns, with dry legs and grown toenails that they can’t reach. And they tell you that they love you because time is running out.

Real people. Some wait with their calendars in one hand, X’ing off the dates until retirement. Some cling to a calendar reminding them of all the bad things that have happened over the last year, decade, lifetime. They weep, although today there is nothing to be sad about. Some whine about having gone grey prematurely, about their sagging breasts, their thighs and their mothers. Think about it, actually they could blame it on their grandmother, she made their mother.

It might give entertainment driving through the Mount Royal neighbourhood of your town, but they too have their weirdness, they overcrowd their homes with expensive, unnecessary things that never get dusted. Some go on extended trips to get away from their spouses, and some never come back. They fall in love with the waitress in a small town that they rode their Harley through. They had to, she had red hair and her name was Betty.

You might look from your window at night and see the homes of people you don’t know below. The lights twinkling as the wind blows, the sirens echoing on and on all night and then hear the occasional piece of laughter.

If I know you long enough, you will enter my stories.

It is difficult to edit, to know when to stop. So for now, I will just pause.

If I know you long enough, you will enter my stories. (Click to Tweet)

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