Tom Hanks once famously said, “There’s no crying in baseball!” And he was right. Professional baseball players don’t cry about baseball, because 1.) They’re tough, disciplined, seasoned athletes, and 2.) For those who choose it as their life’s work, baseball is sheer joy.
Just as there is no crying in baseball, there is no crying in writing. Professional writers don’t cry about their writing—much—because, 1.) They’ve learned how to take criticism (gratefully) and 2.) For those who choose it as their life’s work, writing is sheer joy.
So, when I felt tears dripping off my chin as I deleted passages of a novel that I’m revising—as directed by my editor—I was forced to ask myself some tough questions: Are you drunk? (Just kidding.) Have you had enough sleep? Yes. Are you hormonal? No. Have you taken your medication? (Kidding again.) Do you think the passages you have deleted are so exquisite in their perfection that deleting them is downright tragic? Definitely not. Then, what pray tell, is the problem? I had no idea. Scary.
I crawled into bed, where I hid under the covers and cried some more. It was only then that I realized I wasn’t crying for something, but for someone. All the passages I had deleted belonged to a character that wasn’t just a character, but a real person, a family member, that I had loved and lost. Actually, this character embodied four family members that I had loved and lost. It was then that I realized that writing this character into my novel in the first place was my—sicko—way of trying to keep these family members alive, on paper, forever. Therefore, deleting pieces of them felt like deleting people I once loved, people I still love.
Now, I know what you are thinking: My poor editor. I totally agree. So, in an effort to salvage my relationship with this poor editor, who has been nothing but kind, patient, and encouraging toward me—and who also happens to be right right right about everything—here’s what I need you to know:
This is Bernice Payne (with her husband Floyd, whom I never had the pleasure of meeting). Bernice just loved people—all people—and gladly shared her table with anyone who happened to show up around mealtime. She fed us well—with tons of homegrown fruits and veggies—and made us laugh and laugh and laugh.
This is Roy Lanphear, a WWII veteran with a wonderfully wicked sense of humor, who always sang as he worked—and always sounded like Bing Crosby to me—and who loved to play games and listen to political talk shows on the radio…until it was determined that this was bad for his heart and his blood pressure.
This is Ruth Lanphear (with my husband, Mark) who laid down the law about games and political talk shows—after she heard her husband, Roy, ranting and raving on national radio, while she was out of the house. (She said her heart stopped when she heard the host say, “Let’s take some calls: First, we’ll hear from Roy in Bowling Green, Kentucky.”) Among her many talents, Ruth was a superb storyteller, who believed in me and loved me far more than I deserved. She always made me—and everyone else she loved—feel incredibly special.
Finally, this is Joseph E. Stopher. Goodness and warmth sparkled from his eyes and made you want to hug him on sight—whether you knew him or not. He was generous and joyful, and fully engaged in life—an outstanding lifelong student, photographer, furniture maker, farmer, horseman, lawyer, Christian, husband, father, grandfather and friend. He never wasted a single day. Not one day.
Now, they live forever on the Internet, and in all of you, who read and remember their names. Thank you.
As for me, I’ve got editing and writing to do—objective, professional, non-personal, non-crying editing and writing to do. So, I’m gonna put on my big girl panties and do it, in the hope that I might one day make Bernice Payne, Roy & Ruth Lanphear, and Joseph E. Stopher proud.