Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cutting Loose

     The first time I remember hating the red pen was in Mrs Potter's Honors English class at Richfield High.  Each circle, slash, or line she vigorously scribbled across what represented my very heart and soul set to words, cut me like a razor, and I wondered if by the time her proverbial blood letting ended there would be anything left of my work.
     I eventually came to expect the butchery of her brutal editing however, and as time went on, I began looking forward to it, hoping with each successive exercise, that my writing skills had improved enough to deny her some of the morbid pleasure she seemed to get from ripping my essays apart.  Confident the day had finally come when only the only red ink I would see would be a big circled "A", I laid the meticulously crafted draft of my final Essay on Mrs Potter's desk and settled into the chair while she proceeded to read.  Impossibly, the red pen leaped into her fingers after only a few lines, and in horror I watched as once again I my best effort fell slash by ripping slash short of the mark I had hoped for. I couldn't believe it, and glaring over at her short pixie cut brown hair covered head with disdain, I sat there wishing it would just somehow explode.   She folded down the final page and for what felt like forever, just stared blankly at my paper in silence.  I started to worry, but then she turned and met my crest fallen countenance with moist eyes and barely enough voice to manage the words, "That was really beautiful."
     "But you tore it to pieces!" I complained, to which she smiled, and what she said next has had a profound affect on me ever since that day...
     "It's not what I cross out Quinn," she said, "'s what I leave that matters."
     Many other teachers, professors, and editors have reviewed my writing, each wielding their red pen with a certain flare, but it will forever be Janet Potter who changed my perspective of the once hated foe.  That was the day I became a writer, and in me was born a desire to create word masterpieces, each time I put my pen to paper.  Professors became friends rather than foes, and their criticism, mortar and bricks rather than a wrecking ball.  I had learned, that if I just cut loose with near reckless abandon rather than writing with a carefully planned outline, my impressions would originate from a place nearer my heart, therefore causing my words to flow with purer motive, deeper feeling, and an honesty that would validate my expression.  Rarely do I risk breaking my groove to censure, re-write, or edit any more, because I believe that my first thoughts are usually the purest.  Perfectly arranged or not, somewhere in those raw and often times roughly constructed run on sentences are the priceless gems that after a few stokes of red ink will stand out like brilliant diamonds.
     People have often warned me of the editors brutal pen, but I say bring it on, ...cut the unsightly fat from around my Herculean physique, so my inner awesomeness can be exposed, ...I don't fear it, I count on it!
     In writing a fictional story, I had to be self indulgent in my writing through the first draft, in order to become intimately familiar not only with my characters, but with the environment that I was creating; ...the setting, its details, with all the color, smell, taste and feel that made it live inside my mind.  Later much of that got cut away, but by simply cutting loose with all I had in that first draft, I helped insure consistency, depth, and the raw emotion necessary to breathe life into what otherwise might have been just a bunch of words.

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