Shelley Widhalm

Writing and Moving

In Moving, Shelley Widhalm, Writing, Writing Discipline, Writing Processes on July 13, 2014 at 11:00 am

This summer, I moved from one apartment to another to not even the opposite side of town, but one block north and a half block east.

This move’s like my writing life: I took chances but not huge ones, and I packed to unpack.

I relocated to move in with my fiancé, but I didn’t want to let go of my old apartment: the high ceilings, tall windows and hard-wood floors. To put it another way, I was having a difficult time killing my darlings, meaning my darling apartment decorated exactly how I liked it with all of my stuff.

Welcome the man with his geometric style of decorating, decorations that didn’t mean anything to me and way of putting together stuff that clashed with my sense of style.

How does one compromise: Argue, debate, talk, give in a little, accept, let go, pack up a few things.
I packed a dozen boxes of the few dozen I had unpacked, labeled them and took them off to storage. I had to reduce what I thought I needed, get rid of stuff I didn’t need and rethink my (our) space. I went from three closets (front, walk-in linen and bedroom) to a shared closet in the bedroom.

In other words, I had too much stuff for our shared 600 square feet of space. Through the process of repacking, I realized I didn’t need extra sets of towels and sheets, an extra set of bedding, three extra pillows, winter pajamas in the summer, baskets to store stuff now that I had less storage space and my collection of Starbucks teddy bears.

I had to fit what I wanted to keep into smaller bathroom drawers, fewer kitchen cabinets and half a closet (actually three-fifths from my crossing over to his side). At first, I didn’t think I could find space for and reassemble my belongings to work within the geometric shapes of drawers, shelves and cabinets, while also keeping it all assessable in case I wanted any of those things.

This reconfiguring is like how I pack and unpack with my writing.

When I write news and feature articles, I follow a loose formula, writing my lead and basing the rest of what I write on the first graf or two, followed by a quote and narrowing in on the information I provide from the most important to least important. I write in a box with some sense of freedom when I choose the lead, pick out the best and sparkly quotes, and find the best descriptions for the five W’s and H.

Writing a novel, I follow the outline, venturing off here and there, but still keeping within the parameters of my story.

With short story writing, I sit down for a session or two and let my mind burst out of the parameters until I figure out the story, and then I pack my words into the framework I’ve created.

And for poetry, I wait for inspiration, feeling the freest in this form because I am not thinking about story structure, setting and character identity but writing out of feeling, allowing that later I will edit.

The editing part is getting rid of the junk you don’t need, storing away great sentences and paragraphs that don’t fit the scene or the page, and coming up with a new reality from what you thought was in your head. It’s now on paper with a shape that you can see, feel and almost touch.

That’s what moving does to you: it makes you reshape and re-see what you own and what you really need and don’t need. Editing gets down to the most essential of what you’re writing, and that’s what living should be: the best and the important, not all the stuff, the junk and the unnecessary things.

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