Thursday, October 28, 2010

The power and pain of options

Back in the dark ages when I was in grade school, we learned all about the Big Bad USSR: those horrible Communists kept its pathetic citizens in rags and poverty for decades. They existed in sad living conditions and had few chances for advancement and were constantly under scrutiny by secret police.

Well, at least that's what we were taught.

The worst part for a ten year old to learn was the lack of options the Soviets had in the grocery stores. Even if the citizens had money to buy food, the shelves were often bare or they would have few choices. Those poor people! we thought. They couldn't buy Twinkies and Devil Dogs! They only had one kind of toilet paper! They might not even get chocolate milk!

As an adult now, I kind of miss the old Soviet ways. Grocery shopping is one of my least favorite activities ever. When I step into the store, I feel bombarded by choices. What soymilk do I buy? Which pasta do I choose? Why are there ten different types of tomatoes?

Maybe I'm old. Too old to shop. Which is just fine with me.

But as a writer, I love having options. I love the power of choice when I pick a character's name, her hair style, her family life and favorite color...every step of her journey is at my fingertips. The beauty of writing (and rewriting) is the ability to make any change I want at any time. As I step into the fray of a major rewrite on my current story, I have to remind myself that I can do anything I want with it. I can move scenes, delete characters, change story arcs...and make the story better, stronger, faster. Knowing I can do that is very comforting.