First Day: Alone in your cozy writing nook, a partridge in a pear tree, you love every word of your new essay. It’s just perfect. Then you realize you’re 500 words over the limit for the contest you want to enter. Yikes!
Second Day: Like those two turtle doves, your initial love for your essay has migrated to sub-Saharan Africa for the winter, maybe forever. You hate your essay now. As you read over it, you realize it’s not very good at all. Is there anything worth keeping?
Third Day: Absolument! Your three French hens remind you of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Give yourself a break. Besides, there’s no time to start anything new.
Fourth Day: Or is there? The four “calling birds” in your backyard clamor for a new tune. Start over, the blackbirds sing. Start over! Start over! START OVER!
Fifth Day: You have no energy to begin something new. Your five golden rings may be just brass, but your essay is the best you’ve got, so you decide to polish it up the best you can.
Sixth Day: Okay, so you won’t actually cut anything. You’ll just trim the hedge a teeny bit, taking care not to disturb the six Canada Geese-a-laying. You gently prune a few words here and a few words there. But is it enough?
Seventh Day: It is not. However, you refuse to cut the most precious part of your essay. Even if they say that all writers eventually “murder their swans.” Well, that’s for other people to do. Their swans are not as precious as your swans.
Eighth Day: Your cereal milk has soured, and doubt sets in. Wallow in your pity for a while and then get back to the barn with the other maids. You’ve got serious work to do.
Ninth Day: Cutting is actually easier than you thought. The delete key clicks like Ginger Rogers’ heels, and your heart dances with delight. You don’t miss those swans at all.
Tenth Day: Your essay isn’t the same. Now you fear it’s terrible. Ten lords leap in and take it away. You’re happy to see it go.
Eleventh Day: The pipers bring your essay back, and they’re not playing a dirge. When you read your essay again with fresh eyes, you realize it may actually may be better. Leaner, more concise, and more compelling. Hurray!
Twelfth Day: Take a deep breath and submit your revised essay. The world may not love it, but who cares? You do. In your mind, it’s just perfect. And in the end, that’s all that matters. After all, new ideas drum on and on….
ABOUT ASHLEY: Ashley Memory lives in the wilds of the southwestern Randolph County where the pileated woodpecker, chickadees and titmice serve as her “calling birds.” She has written for Poets & Writers, The Independent, and Wired. She serves as a critique editor and judge for the Women on Writing quarterly fiction and nonfiction contests, and writes a blog at ashley-memory.com.
GET OUT OF THE SLUSH WITH ASHLEY: Join Ashley for The Art of Submission: From the “Slush” Pile to the “Rush” Pile on January 11, 2022, 6-8 p.m. online via Zoom. Technology makes submitting for publication easier than ever. Though as more writers offer their work, competition for space becomes fiercer. But take heart. In this class, we’ll cover the art behind successful submissions and how to move from the “slush” pile to the pile editors rush to accept. More information is here.