Last Saturday, as the Viking and I were driving into town to do the usual weekend errands, he said, “I feel the Red Barn calling me.”
“Cool!” said I. “Let’s go!”
I love the Red Barn. No, it’s not a club or a farm – it’s an antique store of my favorite kind, clutter and junk mixed in with some lovely pieces of furniture. When the Viking gets that prickling in his thumbs there is almost always something there that we didn’t know we needed but discover we can’t do without.
Last Saturday it was a wardrobe. Probably not antique, but beautifully crafted and with the sort of smooth, clean lines both of us love. There followed the usual discussion when we find a new piece of furniture.
“I love this thing.”
“I know. Me too. Where would we put it?”
“It would solve some of the closet space problem.” (Our house was built without closets. Ongoing challenge.)
“Where would be put it?”
“It would look great where the entertainment center is. Open up the whole house.”
We exchanged one of those looks you can only exchange with somebody you’ve been with for a long time. Nobody watches that TV, except the offspring. All of the offspring have moved out, but they like to watch TV when they come home for visits. There’s nowhere else in the house to put the entertainment center or the TV, so if we buy this wardrobe the whole kit and kaboodle goes bye bye. How will that affect the kids? What will we do with the entertainment center?
Yep. We bought the wardrobe, and thereby changed the shape of the entire weekend.
It’s amazing how one piece of furniture with a small footprint can change everything. First up was packing up all of the old videos and CDs and games stored in the old entertainment center. Cleaning the damn thing. Hauling it and the old TV off to Goodwill. That part I foresaw when we bought it. What followed, not so much.
The new wardrobe, while unfortunately not leading to a land of talking animals and magic, did beautifully open up my library. Stacks of books. On the floor. On the shelves. Music books and record albums added to the clutter. Dust bunnies and cobwebs in the corners I’d been unable to reach. And all of it now visible from the rest of our decidedly open floor plan.
So, I sorted and reshelved books. Vacuumed and dusted. Filled boxes with books I know I will never read again and carted them off to Goodwill. Some items, God help me, got moved to what was formerly my office space before we shifted another room in the house to office space. Now that whole room needs to be re-organized. Again. Oh, and I still have to do something about organizing my half-inherited CD collection, which shares the library space.
Not that any of this is bad. It sucked up the entire weekend, sure, but it felt wonderful. All of my signed editions are now in a separate bookshelf, along with the books written by my friends. Other much beloved books are in prominent positions. Books of a kind are shelved together where they are easier to locate. And the piano looks beautiful pulled out where we can see it (and maybe even start playing it again) instead of crammed behind a piece of crappy furniture.
How does this relate to writing?
This is exactly what happens with revision. There’s that wonderful moment when the lightbulb goes on in your head and you see the possibility of change. If you are willing to get rid of an unwieldy scene – sometimes even one that’s been there since the beginning, full of memories and emotional attachments -that opens up new realms of possibilities. The rest of the story shifts and shifts, if you let it, into something better.
Is it work? Definitely.
Is it hard to let go of a scene you love? Absolutely.
But it’s also rewarding and good for the story.
Kerry is the queen of the misfit story. She writes fantasy that has its teeth sunk into reality, mystery that delves into the paranormal, and women’s fiction that embraces the dark and twisty realms of humanity.