One of the most important lessons I learned abut editing this year was the value of stepping back from a project to let it rest. Time allows the words to settle and even become a little foreign so when you return to work again, you’re able to read with fresh eyes and more clarity. Changes are hard to notice when you’re engrossed in a project and surrounded by it constantly.
When I was in seventh grade, I spied on my older sister in the bathroom. She was in high school and part of “all things cool” at that point. Through the tiny crack in the bathroom door, I watched her tweeze her eyebrows. (I was floored. Had she seen this on TV? Was this the next big thing? It seemed too sophisticated and so Cosmopolitan. I decided I had to give this a try because I wanted to be a part of “all things cool” too.)
Without asking questions about guidelines for the procedure, I dove right in, tweezing my brows. After about the third pluck I wondered why on earth she was doing this because it hurt, but I was a middle school kid yearning to do what my older sister did. I pushed through the pain. (Let me point out that I had thick eyebrows, not quite Brooke Shields circa 1985, but decent.)
Without knowing the rules for eyebrow tweezing, I took what I thought was a logical approach: I started at the front and moved toward the back. The process didn’t take that long because I only worked on a small section. But I returned the next day, to do a little more. Because everyone knows that more is better.
Slowly, the distance between my eyes seemed to grow as my eyebrows shrank farther away from the center. I actually started using the razor to shave the area because it took too long to tweeze. (Yeah, hindsight tells me that should have been a warning sign.) Now while all of this was going on, my mother never knew what I’d been up to. But one day she held me down and looked at my face with the strangest of expressions. “What are you doing to your face?” she asked.
I wasn’t sure how to answer. When I confessed that I’d been using my big sister’s tweezers, she made me stop. Luckily, the answer to why my face was starting to resemble a pumpkin occurred near summer break. Over the next two months, I had to let the shaved area start to grow back. A month of Halloweens would have been a better time for a transition like this to occur. I had to use an eyeliner pencil to fill in the spots during the first few weeks.
So, why am I telling you this story? It reminded me of my editing. Had I not looked in the mirror for a few days or a week, I would have been surprised by the changes taking place on my face. But seeing it everyday, numbed me to the transformation.
Let your work breathe, you’ll be glad you did.
And I should add that this was the first year my middle school decided to take spring pictures as a fund-raiser. For a long time, that photo was my sister’s all time favorite.