Last night, I was listening to Cupid's "Cupid Shuffle," and it got me thinking about dances in general. I grew up in Iowa, and my church held dances every few months as a way for the teenagers to have fun and practice social skills.
Now, as long as I don't have to make up the motions, I manage okay at dances. Hence, line dances are my preferred way to move. One of my favorites has always been the Cotton-Eyed Joe. But I was almost eighteen before I learned that there are multiple ways to dance the Cotton-Eyed Joe.
How I found that out was sort of an accident. For one of my church's annual youth conferences, we went on a bus tour to various church-history sites throughout Missouri and Illinois. During one of our nights in Missouri, we had a dance with the teenagers from the local church units.
The way we Iowa kids had learned the Cotton-Eyed Joe was almost identical to the Canter's Cave Version in this video (starts at about 0:55). But the Missouri kids wanted to teach us their version, which was pretty close to the Oklahoma Version (the first one in the video). I wasn't sure about it at first, but I went along with it. Soon we Iowa kids were tripping all over ourselves and laughing our heads off as the Missouri kids tried to teach us. I ended up having a blast.
Just as I was hesitant to let go (even temporarily) of the version of the Cotton-Eyed Joe that I'd learned, sometimes we writers get overly attached to certain parts of our work. In fiction, we might try to keep a certain plotline or character that really isn't serving the story. In nonfiction, we might initially state an argument more strongly than our audience will accept, or we might try to bring in some evidence that would require a prohibitive amount of explaining.
This tendency is one reason that being edited can be so difficult. Even when we know a certain element is problematic, we might love it, passionately believe that we need to include it, or fear the piece won't work without it. So we cling to it. And if someone suggests we change or cut it, we get as defensive as if they'd suggested amputating a limb.
That's why it's so important to find an editor who will both tell it to you straight and be kind about it. Having our shortcomings pointed out is hard, but it's much less painful if the person doing the pointing out is gentle and encouraging.
This is the type of relationship I strive to build with each of my clients. My goal is always to inspire and empower you to make your work into the best possible version of itself. If you're ready to start that journey together, email me at storyengineer7 AT gmail.com and tell me how I can help!
(Thanks to Patricia Palma for sharing their work on Unsplash.)