“What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.”
- Samuel Johnson
I’ve been tackling the story whose guts I recently decided I hate. It took some time and a lot of nerve, but last week I completely pulled it apart and started over, adding more new elements than keeping old ones. It was a bloodbath, a ruthless pruning session that left me panting and sweating bullets, but with an entirely new version of a story I need to keep in my collection.
It needed an extra pair of eyes, so I called upon my great friend S., who is both a discriminating reader and a nurse. Where the setting of my collection is a nursing home, I’ve been throwing stories at her left and right, begging for her expertise. Indeed, S. has been invaluable in keeping me from falling flat on my face out of ignorance on nursing-related matters.
Yesterday S. arrived at the door with her copy of the rewrite, and announced we were going on a field trip to look at the diaper room. The diaper room – how fantastic! Accuracy in writing is so important, and clearly S. felt I needed to get it right about the diapers. I grabbed my notebook, and we were off to the hospital. Within minutes of S.’s poking around the supply room, we had the matter sorted out.
While S. had a few words with her colleagues in the nurses’ lounge, I stood in the empty hallway and noted the waiting gurneys, the towel cart, the nose-pinching scent of antiseptic that hung in the air along with a brittle, momentary sense of calm. I thought about the people resting behind drawn curtains, the nurses whose cheerful chatter was making its way to me from the lounge, and I hoped I would be able to do them all justice.
Back at my desk I made the necessary changes about diapers, and realised that I had finally divined the story I wanted to tell. I think.