Capote on Writing, Capote on Life

Aankomst schrijver Truman Capote (links) en regisseur Richard Brooks op Schiphol voor de première van de film "In Koelen Bloede" ("In Cold Blood") *14 maart 1968

Aankomst schrijver Truman Capote (links) en regisseur Richard Brooks op Schiphol voor de première van de film “In Koelen Bloede” (“In Cold Blood”)
*14 maart 1968   By Eric Koch / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

“I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
-Truman Capote

I stumbled upon this Truman Capote quote and boy did it resonate hard with me.  First, taken on its face, it is a mantra for writing.  My usual process for writing anything – including and especially a blog post – is to do a throw-up draft and then to do a clean-it-up draft.  I pour out everything I want to say and then I cut it back until what I have is the rightest, most succinct statement of that original idea – at least in the span of time I have for the activity.  When it comes to blogging, there is a certain rapid-fire nature to the endeavor that lends itself to quick spurts of ideas, making tangential meanderings between different ideas, and refuses a heavy editing process.  Still, I try to get to the point.

But in life, too, editing is so important.  Put another way, prioritizing.

Since becoming a mom and thereafter a working parent, I’ve started to see my life as a precious collection of hours which i can choose to spend in any number of ways – and how much time I spend on any given activity is a reflection of my choices and priorities.  There’s a lot of life reality guiding those choices, of course, but that reality – the time it takes to get from my office to O’s childcare for pick-up and drop-offs, the time it takes to pump milk at the office, the time it takes to cook food on a Sunday versus order take-out on a week night, the time it takes to walk to work versus drive or take the bus – are largely products still of my own choices.

And my priorities are pretty clear.  O and the wife come first, period.  As does my health and sanity.  My job is a priority, as is my family, my close friends, and this blog.  Some weeks the formula is more weighted in one direction or another but this is the roster of contenders.

And I’ve come to see most else in terms of scissors:

  • Going to the grocery store versus ordering on Instacart – cut it.
  • Having an expansive wardrobe that demands complicated outfit developments every morning versus having a few staples I rotate – cut it.
  • Events, panels, receptions that I once thought were a “value add” to go to but are not essential to getting my job done?  Cut it.
  • Emails that I could spend 20 minutes thinking on versus 30 second with my first response that 90% of the time is where I land after extra thinking – cut it.
  • That tv series everyone tells me to watch but I just can’t get that excited about – for now anyway, cut it.
  • That party I’d love to go to but would only afford me quick hellos with my closest friends versus a different visit when we could really catch up – cut it.

I wish I could say I’ve mastered this – or that all the inessentials have magically made room for all my priorities.  It hasn’t — and in fact, some weeks I have to cut the essentials – just a bit and just temporarily.

Over the past week, I had to cut my commitment to blogging most days.  Work just needed to be a priority.  And today – I’m cutting my commitment to doing 2 drafts of a post.  This is the raw thoughts as they come out and the editing will have to wait for another day, another idea.


One thought on “Capote on Writing, Capote on Life

  1. Pingback: A Pause. | Mamahood. With Opinions.

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