Yesterday my youngest put a plastic spoon in my mouth. She belly laughed when she pulled it out again. This exchange went on for about twenty minutes. Completely entertained by the moment at hand and by a plastic spoon, she was having a moment of pure joy. It’s the age-old story; you buy them tons of toys, hoping to capture their imagination, and they prefer a plastic spoon, or a box, just any interaction with you being fully present. It’s the simple things that make them the happiest.
The whole plastic spoon incident made me think about writing and creating a story. You start with a simple idea and you build on it, quilting together characters, a plot line, tension, tempering it with, you hope, the right amount of pacing. And it can be hard to know when to stop and when you’ve written enough. A story is never over. It’s just like a painting. Both are finished when they’re ready to be shared, but finding that point can sometimes be tricky.
Which brings me to the topic of over-writing. Over-writing is getting really excited about what you have to say and saying it…too much. It’s the fancy battery-operated toy that blinks and sings in five languages when a simple cardboard box will do. It’s squinting really hard to channel the Muse when simply looking out the window and finding one simple word after looking at a cloud will do.
I over-write when I’m not feeling confident in something in my story, either in a character, an interaction, a setting, or even where the plot is going. It signals to me that I need to step back, take a deep breath and look out the window. It tells me to be brutal, and ‘kill my darlings,’ as they say, and really examine what is causing me to over-write.
Over-writing is like over-parenting. It stems from lack of confidence and it weakens what you are intending to say or do. It can force you to go back to the cardboard box, to dive in and just say it, because it’s your voice and you should use it without apologies.