A couple weeks ago I’d started writing an essay for consideration for a writer’s calendar. My first rough draft was 536 words, and I was pleased with what I’d written. Not only do I love writing and talking about writing, I enjoy penning about the craft itself. Writing is a subject I am passionate about.
Then I checked the guidelines for this particular piece. It had to be 300 words or less. 300 words, I wondered in awe. This is going to be impossible!
Anyone who knows me well knows I am a wordy person. I like talking. And talking. When my sister and I take our walks in the morning the time passes swiftly because we are breathlessly conversing at the same time. When I get together with my friend Mary, who I don’t see that often, the hours feel like minutes. I revel in regaling others with descriptions of even the mundane details of my life.
300 words? I had my work cut out for me.
I’ve done it many times before, cutting a 500 word piece down to 300 for a guest column in the newspaper that abides by a strict word limit. I’ve done it for essay contests that limit submissions to 1000 words or less when my initial rough draft contained 1500. Once I get into it; crossing out extraneous words and splicing out entire paragraphs, I even enjoy it. But those initial attempts still feel quite painful. Which of those wonderful adverbs should go? Which sentences are repetitive? Sometimes I hang onto a particularly descriptive word a little too long, until it comes down to the wire and I have only one word to delete. I feel a pang of sadness as I say good-bye to that delicious word.
Speaking of delicious words, I recently entered a poem into a contest, a poem about words that was originally 20 lines and had to be cut down to 12. That alone took me several days.
Each morning I have looked at this piece and edited, and each morning the word count has gradually diminished. This morning I was down to 364 words. So close, and yet so far. I was certain nothing more could be cut without the essay losing all meaning whatsoever. I set it aside for awhile and sat and talked to my husband about some upsetting events of the past few days. I asked him what he was thinking about all of it. Not much for expressing feelings, he nevertheless struggled to vocalize the disappointment and sadness he was dealing with. As he talked, I felt my heart swelling with love for him, an appropriate feeling given that it is Valentine’s Day. I went over to him and hugged him.
“I have never felt closer to you than I do right now,” I said, and realized the truth of what I was saying. Each day since his cancer diagnosis on June 28th, 2006, I have felt my love for him deepening. I am amazed and astounded that it has continued to grow since then.
My husband went to work this morning knowing he is loved. That is a Valentine’s gift all of us yearn for and deserve; genuine love.
It isn’t the chocolate and flowers, or the expensive steak dinners, that make us feel loved. It might be the heartfelt hug, or the simple words I said as my husband went out the door this morning, “I’m here for you. I love you.”
Once he was gone, I went back to my still-wordy essay, those thoughts uppermost in my mind. Sometimes the simple words are the best. I began the arduous task of editing additional words and sentences. I finished an hour ago, then checked my word count.
Happy Valentine’s Day.