Trim Away the Dead

So many things are connected! I have all of these things swirling around in my head and I wanted to write them down and share them with you.

I was trimming some plants this morning and it made me think of a quote by Einstein:

Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.

At that moment I felt as if I was within a fractal.

It dawned on me that the act of trimming what was unnecessary from the plant to make way for new growth, can apply to larger aspects of our lives.

We can’t have vibrant, healthy lives if all the excess “dead stuff” gets in the way of the sunlight that is needed to nourish the new growth. I think this applies to things such as having too many material possessions, how we live in our homes, how we live our daily lives, and how we write.

When was the last time you really took a look at your life? Is everything running smoothly? Are there some things that just cause anxiety the moment you think about them?

Maybe you have too much stuff. Maybe you have too many clothes or a collection that’s gotten out of hand. Is just the thought of dusting the house too much for you? Fewer items make your life easier. Are you like me and have projects that you have shelved and just can’t seem to get to? Maybe it’s even too much media in your life or too many obligations. Have you overbooked your life? When was the last time you took a minute to watch butterflies or just to take a deep breath? We all have stuff we need to whack away from the clutter of our lives.

Here are some things I do that help to keep me from feeling overwhelmed and once I do them, I feel freer.

1. Going through clothes- sometimes when I’m thumbing through the clothes, if I feel an unfavorable gut reaction at the thought of wearing that item, I toss it.

2. Household chores- Are you like me? I have a big project to do, but I can’t do it until I do A, B, and C. I can’t seem to get around to doing step A, so the project never gets done. Break down large tasks into smaller ones. Take five minutes of your day and it will make a dent in the larger task. Need to clean out the garage? Pick one box to go through. The next day, pick another. Before you know it, the large task will be accomplished.

3. Learn to say, “No.” – this is a difficult one for me, but we’ve heard again and again that it can be a great way to simplify your life.

4. Write about what is bothering you or about what seems wrong- I’m writing this blog to control and organize the thoughts flying around in my head. Even if it’s just for yourself, write about what is bothering you. You’d be surprised at how it clears your mind and you can see things clearer.

Remember, (another Einstein quote):

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately are problems. (I told you I have a lot of stuff swirling in my brain!) Problems in life, problems in stories, and how we solve them. I’ve been watching episodes of Mr. Bean lately.

What a great character he is! (Not to mention Rowan Atkinson’s wonderful acting. I think only he could Mr. Bean.) We laugh at his silly antics, but I also admire him for his inventiveness. When confronted with an problem that seems insurmountable, he always seems to find a way to solve it. My favorite is the way he locks his car, I love it.

Sometimes in life (and in writing), when a problem seems insurmountable, I try to think of a way of changing the problem. Of course, it isn’t always possible to change the problem, but this mental exercise may help you change how you view the problem and then create an effective solution. One way I do this is to think of being interrogated by a three year old. (I’m telling you, my brain works in weird ways!) Imagine you say, “I can’t do ____ because of ____.” The three year old will ask, “Why?” For every answer you give, ask yourself, “why?” Do this until you want to scream, “Because I’m your mother and I say so!” But really it may show your problem in a different light, which will make solving it easier. Sometimes we need to break things down to build them up again.

Which leads me to the craft of writing! All of these thoughts made me think about literary characters and writing. As writers, how do we go about solving problems? Is there a problem that you just can’t seem to solve? Come at it a different way. The craziest solution just may be the right solution for you (or your characters).

For me, I’m still working on my first draft. I’ve already had to trim scenes I love dearly, but for the sake of the complete work, I was willing to chop them away. I know there will be more to come. I won’t be able to look at the whole until I have a complete draft, but I’m willing to cut away parts that don’t work and nurture parts that do. ( I was going to say “fertilize” the good parts, but that brings up visions of manure and I don’t want any part of my story to be” manure”!)

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I should be working on the story at the moment, but taking the time to think about these things helps me to see the bigger picture in life and my writing.



Posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , by with 16 comments.


  • rhonda lozano says:

    will finish reading at later, need to take shower after cleaning house. <3 you friend

  • Amy says:

    For some reason I can see the clutter in others’ lives better than I can in my own. I’m so used to my own “stuff” that it becomes invisible. Since there have been four adults other than myself living in my house (who are now elsewhere), I have tons of stuff that I can’t even identify!

    • admin says:

      Tackle your stuff a little at a time. Then tell them that you are going to throw out their stuff. Give them 30 days, then do it.

  • Kristan says:

    A) Congrats on getting the new site working!

    B) Omigosh YES. Yes times a million to the idea of trimming away the dead stuff, both in life and in writing. It makes such a mental and emotional difference.

    C) I love the idea of “changing the problem.” I’ll have to test that out a bit!

  • Love your quotes. Here’s another. Thoreau said, “Our life is frittered away by detail… simplify, simplify.”

    When Mo and I moved to the cottage, it was with this quote and the mantra, “Life’s too short,” in mind. We had too much stuff, too little time to actually experience life and to pursue our real life-goals, and a dwindling reserve of sanity. We now have less than half the square footage of living space. There’s no room here for excess stuff, which helps keep things simple.

    I try to remember how lucky I am when I get frustrated about writing. When I start feeling the frustration build, I go on a long walk. Nothing centers me better. When I stop focusing on the problems, the solutions tend to come.

    Cool site, and GREAT first post, my friend. I like. 🙂

    • admin says:

      Vaughn, boy walks center me too. I have to get up and walk around several times a day, even if it’s just to take a little lap around the outside of house. It’s like I have to reconnect to Nature to breathe again.

      I’m also constantly giving stuff away. Just get rid of it! I used to like knick-knacks, now it’s just something I’d have to dust.

  • Eva Pohler says:

    Very thought-provoking stuff. Thanks for sharing.

  • D. D. Falvo says:

    Your new website came out just awesome! But seriously, what will happen if I say the word widget? 😉

    I love your advice for simplifying our lives and rediscovering what is truly important. I have been thinking a lot about these same things as my husband and I prepare for a move out of state. I have to weigh the sentimental/material value of what I own vs. the cost of moving it–I think I may surprise myself. I hope for that anyway.

    How does Mr. Bean lock his car?

  • AJ Sikes says:

    Brilliant post! And just the thing I need to hear as I look into the *cue dramatic music* holiday season…like a deer in the headlights.

    I definitely need to address the “stuff” issue at home. It’s getting to be a little much. Thankfully, the writing is going better. Just solved a major plot problem that is going to make my revisions far less painful than I anticipated they would be. Onward to completion!

    • admin says:

      Yea! Glad you solved the plot problem. I have been there, and will be again I’m sure. I have a feeling I have some plot problems of my own.

  • Jessica Messinger says:

    I am also wondering how Mr. Bean locks his car!
    Fabulous first post! So many thoughts swirling in my brain too.

  • Aria dè Sitter says:

    Wow YOU wrote that?
    what a wonderful girl you are!

  • Valerie says:

    Thanks! 🙂

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