No one has ever accused me of biting my tongue. No one has ever said to me, You should really speak your mind. I don’t think I’ve ever heard, Spit it out Lesa. My mouth is my greatest asset and also my biggest foe.
As a writer of picture books, selecting just the right words is crucial to telling a strong yet concise story. The picture book writer can have many jobs—create a narrative, teach a lesson, share a piece of history, connect the past to the present, make a reader laugh, highlight illustrations, share the power and beauty of language. All this in 32 pages. So the temptation to write more often persists.
In debates with friends, I need to offer just one more thought. With my husband, I need to argue just one more point. With my kids, I need to share just one more piece of profound knowledge from my unlimited cache of wisdom. But it is only after I add that extra line to the text message, say the one more thing, do I immediately wish I could pull it back. The key to successful relationships? Shut up. It doesn’t result in winning the debate. No one is the better for it. There are no great epiphanies. My family and friends have proven to be my best editors, only they don’t need a pen because their deep sighs, unanswered texts and eye rolls cut deeper than any proofreading marks. They remind me that, if I can’t always edit my thoughts, I can certainly edit my words.
In writing, not every word should make it onto the page. Some material is beautifully crafted yet not a good fit, some, the seeds of other stories, some don’t help to propel the story along, some useless trivia. Saying less can make each word that much more meaningful. So I try to shut up, and write only what must be written. It has taken a long time to learn that the absence of words is often the most powerful tool a writer has.
And even though I feel the need to add just a little more here…I won’t. I promise. That’s it. No more. Right after I say, The End.