During the editing process of my book I had to erase – A LOT.
At times, I took out repetitive and/or confusing sentences. Other times, I took out big chunks, whole chapters even.
It hurt me to gut the manuscript that way. It was torturous and agonizing and devastating to me that I’d spent so much time to write those scenes and chapters only to have them cut out entirely at the end.
I, of course, thought I could keep all my scenes and all the ramblings. When I was writing them, I thought they were all necessary and well written – that I was really onto something, so NO, I could NOT delete them.
Then, when I was revising and editing, I tried everything to keep it all. I convinced myself that I just needed to clean those parts up, and everything would be right in my fictional world I hold so dear.
I didn’t need all of those scenes. Most of them were awkward, confusing ramblings. They took away from the main story, so it would be wise to get rid of them completely. They weren’t salvageable, and I was just wasting more time trying to find ways to keep them.
I fought with myself, to cut out or not to cut, to move or not to move. But at the end of the day, writers have to let go. We have to be strong and focus on what we truly believe will improve the story and reading experience.
So I trashed several parts of the book, no matter how well written or exciting or sexy I once thought they were. No matter how much time I spent on those parts, they had to go.
I think a lot of my issue was with the time I’d spent writing those parts. I didn’t want to cut them out after all that energy spent in writing them – I didn’t want to feel like I’d wasted that time.
But the truth of the matter was that I didn’t waste anything. Sure, I didn’t end up using those parts I’d written, but I didn’t waste that time.
As I read back through my story and revised it, I realized that those scenes and dialogue that turned out to be unnecessary to the ending product were actually very necessary to the process.
Let me explain – I needed to write those scenes to figure out the characters and/or where to take the story next. You know how you sometimes need to talk things out with a friend or even in the mirror? How you need to talk through a problem until you can figure out where you missed a step in solving that math equation, or to make a final decision, you weigh your options out loud, debating the pros and cons? Well, that’s what I was doing when I wrote those scenes that I ended up cutting – it’s the same reason I don’t outline before I write.
I was figuring out what was crucial to the story and what wasn’t.
I was figuring out what to do with the characters, what I wanted them to say, who I wanted them to be.
I was wading through a sea of trash to figure out where the true gold was.
And eventually, I feel like I did. I now have a finished story that I’m proud of, no matter how many scenes I ended up deleting. No matter the time I thought I’d “wasted.”
It’s the same thing when I consider my journey to this point in time. For a long time, I felt used that I wasted my time pursuing a biology degree during my undergrad. I felt that I wasted all that time studying the Central Nervous System when I could’ve been studying Hemingway and Plath.
After I graduated and didn’t become the radiologist I thought I would, I especially felt deflated that I’d wasted all those years.
But the truth is, I didn’t.
Sure, I’m not in medical school now, nor will I ever be. I don’t even tell people I have a Biology degree at all, unless it is brought up in conversation, which happens very rarely.
To some of you it may seem that I did in fact waste four years losing sleep over biology and chemistry finals, but to me, I was just wading through the sea of garbage to figure out what I really wanted.
Because yes, I did know I wanted to be a writer, but I never believed that could be possible. That was before self-publishing and indie authors were a thing of success, which made it possible for me to see that it could really be done, now more easily than ever.
That was also before I had the confidence in myself and my ability to be a writer. To pursue what I really wanted out of my life.
If going to school for four years to get a degree I don’t use is what it took to get here, then so be it. I’m here now, using what I learned back then in my writing. In fact, my main character in my master’s thesis was a girl who just graduated with a biology degree, who then pursues a medical career.
Which goes to show – nothing’s ever wasted. That failed relationship that took four years of your life? That job you stayed at for years, hoping for a promotion that was never given? That time you invested in a friendship that led nowhere?
None of that was time or energy wasted.
You learned something about yourself. You grew. You changed for the better.
It all became part of your story – your own unique, beautiful story that’s made you, you.
So don’t think of it as a waste. Even if it pains you to admit it, it was important to make you who you are today. It might not have been fun or cool or something you’re proud of – you may not believe that time benefited you in any way but to hurt you.
But take what you learned from it and make that period in your life something you’re proud of now. Reach deep down and acknowledge that you learned something. Embrace those years and use it all to your advantage to make you the best version of yourself now.
After all, however long you spent doing the thing that led you here, it was just you finding yourself. And that’s never a waste.