A Writing Tip from Eileen Toomey
Estimated reading time: 1 minute
You planted the mums the week before the early September heatwave. Even though you watered every morning, there are many withered blooms. Without thinking, you pull the dead buds from the stems, leaving a little pile at the base of the tall black pot.
This process is called deadheading, and it has nothing to do with music.
Deadheading encourages the plant to continue to bloom by removing the old growth just as writing involves removing or revising passages that are not working. The writer “deadheads” weak writing, pruning away sentences, paragraphs or whole sections. This editing process helps the stronger ideas blossom by clearing distractions and letting the writer focus energy on the most fruitful parts of the text.
The writer, like the gardener, learns over time how to be discerning in her cuts, making choices that allow her creation to flourish. While it can be emotionally difficult for the writer to discard words, she must understand that it’s just part of the process. Writing involves both creation and revision. Deletion is a tool. Careful removal of faded blooms and flabby text makes room for continued growth and beauty.
Eileen Toomey’s works have appeared in Oyster River Pages, The Rumpus, The Tishman Review, Fish Food Magazine, The Eastern Iowa Review, and the Museum of Americana. She lives in Red Bank, New Jersey with her husband, Michael. Eileen is currently writing a memoir about growing up in Canaryville on the south side of Chicago where her mother taught her how to appreciate the little things in order to endure life’s biggest hurdles.
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