I just finished — for now — a chapter for my MFA, this one on forgiveness. I usually begin a chapter throwing a whole bunch of stuff into a fresh, clean word document. All my stories that I think will fit, my research, great quotes from experts that I think will spruce things up at the right moments.
As I write, I usually have a teetering pile of books by my side, my authority figures who remind me that I don’t need to have it all figured out myself. My corner of the dining room table will be a creative mess for days as I inch my way through my chapter.
I’m so glad we bought a long table years ago. Back then we were mostly picturing big dinner parties with loud conversations. We do that. But it’s a also a lovely writing home for me, when my basement office is more stifling than life-giving. There’s room for me to stay set up in one corner, and we can all eat at the other end.
As I narrowed in on the ending for this piece, I remembered my mentor’s advice this summer: when it’s done, it’s done. Let the piece end itself, he said, instead of legalistically trying to wring 5000 words out of every topic. As it turns out, all I know about forgiveness fits into 3600 words, so I wrapped it up.
Then, I gathered up all the material I did not use from the document, and brought them over to my Leftovers File, in a big cut and paste sweep. It’s my guess they will remain there forever. But knowing they are in what is more of a compost bin than a garbage can makes them easier to let go of in the first place, and you never know, they may show up somewhere else someday.