Thursday, October 20, 2011

How Losing a Toenail Relates to Writing

Warning: Squeamish people should probably not read the following post.

A little over a week ago, I accidentally dropped a chair on my foot and my toenail started turning a weird color. It bled and hurt so bad it made it hard to walk, but I wasn’t exactly sure what to do about it. You wouldn’t think a little toenail would make such a big difference in the quality of my life.

Last Saturday, my foot felt sort of weird and when I looked down, I saw that my toenail had bent all the way back. Seriously. The whole thing, bent toward my ankle, hanging by a mere corner. I actually have a picture of it, and was going to post it, but I hesitated because, yeah, it’s sort of gross.

Anyway, so my dilemma became, do I rip it off all the way or let the last corner come off by itself? (I ended up cutting it off and currently I have no nail at all on my big toe. It looks weird.)

How does this pertain to writing, you ask?

Sometimes we drop a scene or character or backstory into our manuscript and even though it hurts and bleeds, we shove it in there anyway, thinking it is necessary for the story. The story goes on, but it’s limping and we know the reason why, but aren’t sure what to do about it. Don't we need it in the story?

So after a while of feeling weird about the it, one day you look at your manuscript and realize that the great idea, character, line, whatever, is barely hanging there and you have a choice to rip it out or put a bandaid on it and hope it resolves itself. In a few cases it can resolve on its own, but in my experience, it’s generally better to go with your gut and cut, cut, cut! (I’m a poet and didn’t even know it!)

Once you cut it out, you may feel your manuscript looks like a cat with no hair, pink and vulnerable, but this is a chance for something else to grow there, something better, something wonderful.

And that, my friends, is an analogy you won’t get anywhere else.


Michael Offutt said...

That sounds particularly painful. Hopefully you are keeping it sterile and bandaged until it heals properly.

Sarah Pearson said...

Okay, I'm impressed that you turned something so icky into a writing lesson. Hope you're taking care of it.

Stephanie Black said...

Owwww! Reminds me of when I didn't lift my foot high enough and whacked my toe against the curb. Yeah, losing a nail is not fun.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...

Michael, it was painful, but now it's sort of just tingly. I am trying to let it heal. I've been wondering if I should keep it bandaged or not. I'm just not sure.

Sarah, haha! I wondered if you would even read it. :)

Stephanie, that sounds just as painful! Yikes! It seems like I remember you doing that when you were visiting Utah? Am I right?

Jon Spell said...

I squirmed a lot through your post.

Awesome analogy, though. If thine nail offend thee...

Lisa said...

Loved the squeamish warning. Thanks for the writing tip. From all fellow bloggers thanks for not posting the pictures. I recently had to not post a picture of a recent surgery in Jamaica, in the interest protecting all my less than medical friends.

Julie Coulter Bellon said...


Lisa, you're welcome. Although I have to say I was intrigued by the thought of your pics of surgery. I know, I know, I'm weird. But since I'm a writer, that's a given, right? :)

Tracy Krauss said...

Yep, sometimes its best to just slash the thing - even if it hurts!