The piece I submitted was a substantially revised humorous personal essay titled "Christmas Pageant Touchdown." I appreciated, among other things, that Marion restricted the word count to 750 - a challenge for me, since I am naturally wordy to a fault. And because my original piece totalled 1,650 words. And because I struggle to eliminate words once I have obsessively edited them into place. Word cutting feels a bit like extracting the teeth of my work before finding the perfect prosthetic bridge to conceal the vacancies - and who wants to practice dentistry when there is already so little time for writing?
Since I didn't believe I could actually accomplish this piece in 750 words, I accepted the challenge. I opened my original 1,650 word piece and began eliminating small, unnecessary tag lines and redundancies. Then I moved on to bigger concepts that could be pared down, stated more succincltly, and, in some cases, cut altogether without damaging the integrity of the piece. (Though I can't say the same for my writer's ego - that part of me that still believes that every single letter I write is necessary and deep and absolutely critical to the meaning of my work. And Life itself. You can pretend this doesn't sound familiar - I won't judge.) Ultimately, I found that I could, indeed, splice and dice my work from 1,650 down to a tight 750 with a little effort, a lot of ego stroking, and a moderate amount of self-doubt. As always, I kept my longer version, where it continues to live in one of my word files, but I actually prefer this shorter piece now, and am grateful for the lesson in word economy -- it is a lesson I intend to keep forcing myself to learn. And practice.
If you're interested, the 750-word version of "Christmas Pageant Touchdown" is below. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope that if you find yourself in "elimination mode" during this holiday season, that smiles, music, joy, and laughter remain at the center of your story where they belong.