Spring Cleaning

It’s just getting on the time of year when we’re inclined to do a little “spring cleaning” – sorting out our closets, putting away the boots, moving the T-shirts up and the sweaters down, throwing off the blankets and quilts, opening the windows to let air in, holding our heads up to bask in the sun. Spring is the time we begin to free ourselves from the heavy protective cloak of winter, to emerge fresh and new, a little lighter, little clearer.

With the advent of spring, many of us begin to shed excesses of all kinds. It happens organically as we shed layers of clothing and open the drapes. Some of us cut our hair. Some of us lose weight. Some of us exercise more. Some of us renovate our homes. Some of us donate things we don’t need anymore. And why? To breathe in fresh air, create a new view, take a lighter stand in the world – all of which serve to make us stronger and more present. To reflect the sun.

And as we ourselves do in the spring, we can do as well with our stories—toss off the heavy blankets and open the windows to let in light and air. Ridding our stories of excess – extraneous details, repetitive description, slowly-paced action –is the very best way to make our stories stronger and more present. Paring away excesses – choosing one stronger descriptive sentence over another, condensing ideas, keeping dialogue realistic in its crispness and fast flow – can allow our stories’ characters to move comfortably and unrestrained through their geographical and emotional landscapes. This is not to say to diminish the story in any way, nor to pare it down so much it lacks depth or richness. Rather, the challenge for our stories and characters, as it is for ourselves, is to reveal truths with a light and gentle touch.

There was a time some years ago when I wanted to lose weight. I was finally mentally ready to do so after resisting for quite a while – and as the weight came off, I became a lighter person both physically and psychologically. The process of shedding the pounds was also a process of shedding things which for so long I’d thought I needed to be whole, but which I found had actually become burdensome, preventing me from taking the lighter, but stronger, stand in the world. By me during that weight-loss journey and ultimate emergence, were many friends, of whom a vast number were authors and illustrators. Conversations during that time were fascinating and inspiring, as talks about losing weight seemed to merge naturally with talks about getting rid of excess in our lives and in our writing and artwork. We were one in the appreciation of the struggles, the lows, the highs, and ultimately, the fine results of relieving a person, a painting, a story from heavy obstacles that might inhibit them from reaching their full potential.

And so, this spring day calls to us -- ourselves and our characters -- to run and breathe and reflect the sun.

(c) emma d dryden, drydenbks llc


  1. Wonderful post! Spring cleaning our writing is just a lovely, creative way of explaining the revision process.

    Yes, pare away the excess and make our stories the very best they can be.

    Thank you.

  2. For writers like me, with one foot in the 19th century and the other in the 21st, this is valuable advice. Thank you!

  3. Thank you for a great article! Also it was wonderful "meeting" you last week on Scribechat.

    I've gotten a nickname in my critique group as "Slasher," because paring down and getting rid of extra words, dead-end sentences, redundancies, is my favorite activity! Can't even call most of them "darlings." More like, "Oh are YOU still here? Please leave. The party's over."

    Looking forward to your posts, Emma. Thanks again!

  4. Thanks for the beautiful imagery, Emma.

  5. Nice post! I'm always trying to pare down my manuscript and am too in the process of shedding some extra pounds. I enjoy reading your blog.