Sitting at my desk with six different documents open on my screen, blaring at me, glaring at me, I was overcome with the need to create a sense of order out of the chaos. A desire to start and finish something in a compressed amount of time, with tangible, endorphin-pumping results. The prospect of disassembling my beloved manuscript AGAIN and reassembling it AGAIN felt impossible. It can and will be done, I know—I’ve done it countless times already—but it was going to take many weeks and tears and existential crises to get to the draft I should have written before I tried to sell my soul to the devil. So instead of gathering up my word-children at that moment and plodding forward through the vast darkness, I needed a quick fix to satisfy the reptilian part of my brain or else my creative juices were going to congeal into some sort of worthless biojelly.
So I decided to clean out the freezer.
Those of you who know me well understand my need for clean. Not just moving things into tidy, mostly-out-of-sight piles that give the impression of order, but Sturmabteilung-like attacks on all things unnecessary, unsightly or unclean until everything is culled and bleached and aligned on an invisible, rectilinear grid.
And so went the contents of the freezer: everything out and on the counter to be evaluated and sorted while I cleaned the walls and ice maker. There was the satisfying process of demystifying a few unlabeled items, of organizing like comestibles, and of finding several forgotten items that had been buried under a bag of leftover marshmallow fondant and that were taking up a lot of room. There were the special, mature audience-only, Alice-In-Wonderland brownies my cousin made that my screenwriting partners and I keep talking about eating. And at the very bottom, a package of Louisiana boudin that an old friend had given me as a joke.
Have you ever tasted boudin? Cajun pork sausage made with liver, heart and blood. It’s not bad if you’ve been drinking Hurricanes since breakfast, but otherwise, it’s straight-up, gut-thumping nasty. I kept it in my freezer for purely sentimental reasons for longer than I needed to, and when I looked at it hulking in the bottom drawer, I knew it was time for it to go.
I put everything back and admired my work with the kind of satisfaction reserved only for people for whom the gift of a set of empty, see-through containers from The Container Store is better than almost anything you could put into one. And with that sense of things set to right, I returned to my desk and my drafts and began the process of cleaning there.
Sometimes, the only way to know what things should be kept—in your freezer, in your novel, in your life—is to let enough time pass that objectivity edges out subjectivity. When you’re too desperately close to it for whatever reason, it’s often hard to recognize it when something no longer serves its purpose and really should be thrown out.
I’m applying that to my re-write, letting go of the parts I wrote to please other people, going back and enhancing a version that was authentically mine. It feels good, finally, to recognize what I need to do, like getting rid of the boudin that was unnecessarily taking up space in my freezer. That’s how I’m going to think of revising from now on: tossing out the boudin.
So hello, new draft. I’m sorry I kept you waiting for so long.