Monday, October 10, 2011

On Self-Editing

I had a fabulous day last Friday. First, I didn't go to work, so there's that. Second, it was perfect weather...a lovely day for strolling, not too warm for boots. And so I woke up at the crack of noon and decided that I would go buy seeds, see if can't get a second wave of leafy greens going before winter really hits. (Sidenote: I have this vision of turning the whole yard into an amateur greenhouse this winter, somehow using 100 yards of plastic sheeting, a random collection of poles, and perhaps duct tape to build a leafy green cold frame. Will I do it? As of today, yes, I believe I will.)

I took a bunch of photos of my latest modern carpet bag on the way to the garden shop, and when I arrived, the owner of the shop and her cute little doggy greeted me with friendly hellos. As I looked over the seeds, searching for spinach, the shop owner said two unlikely words to me: I'm nervous.

Now, I sort of love it when a stranger takes down the fourth wall and creates a space in which to speak freely. How refreshing, I thought! A stranger is telling me she's nervous! Why, I asked? And she went on to tell me that she was making a flower arrangement for a DIY/crafty celebrity who shall remain nameless. (I mean, she told me the name, but I won't tell you the name because that would be uncouth.) There she was, this lovely flower shop owner--who, as far as I can tell, has really made a name for her shop--doubting herself. She led me back to where she was working, and I must say, it really was a gorgeous arrangement she was building. But I knew that no matter what I said, she was still going to wonder if she had picked the right flowers, was building to the right scale. If the small spray of green buds was too fussy, or if the dahlias weren't looking a bit wilted. I praised the arrangement and we had a nice chat, but the words I really wanted to say didn't hit me until I was several blocks away, and that is this: Honey, she chose YOU. Of all the flower shops in all of Brooklyn, this DIY tastemaker wants YOU to make her flower arrangement. Believe in yourself, because she believes in you. Go with your gut. Make the arrangement as though you were making it for yourself and it will surely be beautiful.

Or as Coach Taylor might put it: Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

Later that day, I went to Brooklyn Charm and bought myself a charm necklace. (Happy b-day to me!) I had made these little charm necklaces for each of my bridesmaids when I got married, and just recently got to thinking, hello, why didn't I make one for me? And so I selected my charms--four in total: a wishbone, a feather, a hummingbird, and a heart--and had them all loaded up onto a chain. But when I walked out of the store and saw them all together around my neck, only then did I realize that, when worn together,  you can't make out a single one. It just looks like a tangled mess of luck and love, which, let's face it, may be a good metaphor for my life so far. But the overall effect? Not so pretty.

I started seeing a theme to the day: self-editing, it seems, is rather important.

When you are a creator, there are so many reasons that it is important to edit what you are making and so many ways that self-editing can go wrong! We doubt ourselves, we ignore trends, we make emotional decisions, we decide that more is better. But really, if we just take a step back and look at what we've created, the answer is often there. That four charms is probably too many, that the fabric may be a touch gauche, that ripping back to make it right is usually the right thing to do. That sometimes it's okay to abandon a project that isn't working. That putting your name on something that didn't turn out right is sometimes not the best idea, no matter how many hours you spent working on it. But to make things even more confusing, sometimes being a touch gauche is how you test your boundaries and explore creativity! Or sometimes a wonky seam adds a huge amount of charm! Oh, it's so exhausting sometimes, looking at what you've created and deciding if it is right, if it fits your vision, if it is enough (or not enough, or too much). But the truth of the matter is this: Fabulous is fabulous, and fabulous don't lie.

It's worth repeating: Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.

That night, I curled up on my couch and watched Project Runway. Amazingly, the theme of self-editing continued! The contestants were asked to make one look, then halfway through they were told they needed to make a second look. Then, just hours before the runway show, they were told that they had to pick only one of the two garments to show on the runway. Oh, how the contestants were torn!! But Tim Gunn's genius words almost made me gasp. In fact, I had to pause, rewind, and write down the following phrase on the back of a piece of junk mail:

"I don't think you should use the look you've invested the most time in. You should use the look that is the most outstanding."

Outstanding, yes, that's the word to keep in mind.

And so, for today's post, I decided that I would only select one image from my fabulous Friday to show to you all. Just a little exercise in my own self-editing--pick one photo out of 63 possible photos. Why did I pick this one? Well, first of all, because they show my boots. And I love my boots. Ok, but really, here's why: this photo shows the shape of the bag the best. The photo has movement. It is evocative, it paints a picture of what the day felt like, it has a mood. The sun, at that moment, was just beginning to move sideways. And even the sunspots, which are not ideal, remind me of exactly how that moment felt. And for those reasons, it was my favorite.


  1. Self-editing is really not what I want to be thinking about before I start my (11th!!!) NaNo novel...

    But otherwise, yay! I'm a huge fan of self-editing -- really cold, heartless, go-with-your-gut editing. And I think it's a topic that doesn't come up much, or enough, in crafting.

  2. Erin, I can't believe you're writing your ELEVENTH novel. My question is this: have you ever edited one?? (Don't worry, I won't judge you.)

    OK, you know what's funny is that people have been coming up to me in person after reading this post and telling me that this concept really resonates with them. (Maybe they're too shy to leave a comment here? Ha! I don't know.) Either which way, the idea of self-editing seems to be in the air! I'm beginning to think that this is something we all aspire to practice, whether you're making something or not: believing in what you're doing, and editing your actions with confidence. Just sayin'!

  3. I love this post, Liana. Does cleaning out your closet count as self-editing?

  4. Megan, that is sort of the beauty of self-editing. It applies to everything! And in my opinion, cleaning out your closet is one of the best examples of it. I am always amazed by how much stuff is in my closet that I do not actually need/wear/use/enjoy. And having to ask yourself, am I really going to wear this floral polyester shirt that I wore in the '90s? Or am I just being a wee bit nostalgic? It's rough territory, for sure! I wish you luck, my friend.