I’ve just finished off my work for the week and am settling down for a little quiet night to myself. But, maybe, just for a minute, I’d like to just write, just for me.
While I was working this evening, I came across my dad’s name while searching for something online. It surprised me (it shouldn’t), it catapulted my heart into the ceiling, and I ended up doing the crysmilesoblaugh that my family members are so very well known for (When we’re happy, we cry. When we’re pissed off, we laugh. When we are many things, all at the same time, we do the crysmilesoblaugh and occasionally stomp our feet). It felt weirdly comforting, for so many reasons.
But it got me thinking. I write. It is what I do, and I don’t think I can do much else with as much glee or intent. The hardest part of writing, though, lies in the editing. So, yes, all you funny people who email me “lyk dis, becuz you wanna be a riter becuz it luks eezi and i am gud at it” (THESE PEOPLE EXIST GUYS!), I’m certain you have some talent, somewhere. But it’s not your writing I’m ever going to look at. I’m probably going to look at where you edited yourself, if you did. Trust me, it shows.
But while I’m here, thinking about writing, editing and all the little nitpicky things I bang on about every day (see Twitter for rants), I realise…I’m not the final editor of my life. Heck, everyone gets edited. And subedited. And then edited again.
I absolutely can create the best story I can. I can fill it with ideas, activities and colour. I can stock it with daytime naps and dreamy sex, love and friendship. I can commit to composing stories that riddle together like cheese on toast and I can depict as much of my story as I want to. I can edit and sub and scratch out, backspace and delete as much as possible but, I am not the final editor.
Life. Life is the final editor. She’s the one that injects the surprise twists in the tale, kills off characters and gives new ones a grand entrance into the plot. Life is the one that leaps the story ahead when you least expect it and forces you to pore over each word of a sad scene, over and over again. She’s the one that takes the story, shakes it up or she lets it glide along for a chapter or two.
So when I found my dad through my work tonight, I remembered. I’m in a stage of my life now where I *know* he’d enjoy it so intensely. Not just as a grandparent, not just as my dad. But as my greatest sounding board. I wish for him, when I have to edit my own work (which is, lovely reader, all the time). I wish for him when I need a question answered and I want someone to explore a peripheral idea with me. I wish for him, because he’d understand the nuances I want to explore. I want to call him up, fight with him over a sentence I love and he hates, have us slam the phone down on each other in frustration and then laugh about it all again the next morning.
I remembered, all too strangely tonight, of the days I’d work away at essays for University, and he’d edit me. I giggled to myself over how I would secretly send him articles I wrote for my first “proper” corporate job, and he’d edit them, and then send them back to me, so that my boss would receive beautiful work, each time (I was a silly 22 year old then, and mostly insecure about everything). I want to juggle angles on stories with him, and find a little hook to hang my coat of words on.
But I can’t do those things anymore. I haven’t been able to for nearly 9 years now. I’ve had to learn to find his voice within myself, and use the critical but kind guidance to cross out lines that don’t work. Sometimes I can’t find him, and I want to throw my hands in the air and scream: “It’s shit! It’s all shit! I should go be an accountant or something!”
I can’t do that either though, so I must pummel through and keep looking for his guidance somewhere, for life is the great editor and she, she needed me, my siblings and my mom, then, to start writing our own stories.
Just like all editing that happens though, if you look really carefully, you’ll still find the remnants of the original story. That punchy word, that funny little phrase or the great perspective that makes you think long after you’ve finished reading. So it’s that, that is my rebellion against life. Even though she edited my dad out of this world, I can still find him, somewhere, in my words, in my work, somewhere in my head.
You might be the great editor, Life, but I am still the one who writes this story. My dad taught me that.