4 ways to edit your story

There’s a chapter in Gary’s and my story, titled “The Wilderness Years,” that lasted for more than a decade. A windswept, barren, bleak, heart-throbbing trek through financial reversals, and a live-in parent sinking into dementia, and a terminal cancer diagnosis, and the death of a most beloved husband, friend, life partner.

Most of us would edit some chapters of our stories if we could.


Photo by Andrew Measham on Unsplash


But if flunking the history test and being dumped by the boyfriend and catching the flu and being diagnosed with cancer and running out of gas and running out of finances and losing our homes and losing our children to drugs and to school shootings and to war, if sorrow is a guaranteed part of life because we live in a broken world with fragmented people—and although God holds that world in His hands, He doesn’t mess with our free will—then how might we edit those chapters?

Edit with tenacious courage

I’ve been writing for some time now. Which means the rejection letters have been piling up. For every magazine article published, there are a dozen rejected.

The current book I’m working on has been reviewed by a literary agent and then rewritten and submitted to a different lit agent and an editor and revised, based on their input, and is currently being evaluated again.

A quote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald (but it was probably Eric Roth who took liberties and wrote it into the screenplay for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button):

I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.

My book is a better product for all the constructive criticism, the editing and re-writing and re-editing and re-formatting.

Don’t lose heart in the process.

Edit, knowing you have choices

I didn’t have a choice when cancer invaded my husband’s body, our lives, our finances, my alone future.

But I have a choice in how I react and live forward with this irreversible thing.

I choose to lean in close to God, to notice everyday graces, to acknowledge the people in my life as gifts, to love and encourage and learn and count blessings and lean in close to God.

There’s a line in a song, titled “Love is War,” that keeps running through my mind: I will fight for love. I hope you choose to fight for love.

Edit, knowing good can come of the hard

Yes, there can be adventure and new memories and joy and full life following deep, irretrievable loss.

I’ve chosen to edit the “Wilderness Years” chapter and instead of those years representing heartache and deepest of sorrows, those years represent what Gary and I learned about counting all that remained instead of counting our losses as they piled up.

Those years represent paying attention to and appreciating life more deeply than we’d ever paid attention or appreciated.

They represent creating more memories and making more fun and taking more road trips and swashing through some jaw-dropping adventures.

Edit, knowing life is unsettling and will be unsettling again  

Now that I’m in a predictable widowhood routine, I wouldn’t wonder if it’s time for some unsettling.

Getting kicked out of our comfortable places provides the opportunity to write the next chapter of our lives. And if that chapter doesn’t turn out exactly as planned, then the opportunity to edit and reframe.

I can hear God saying:

Be prepared for unsettledness ahead. Hold on for the ride; it’s going to get wild and fun and unnerving and surprising and scary and disruptive and astonishing and astounding.

I’m ready. Let’s move out.


For those chapters in our stories that turned out to be devastating, can we edit them to include some open-hearted, resounding, courageously defiant living?

Speaking from experience — yes, oh yes.

This closing thought from Susan Statham:

Your life is a story. Write well. Edit often.


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  1. Tanya Neelon

    I started writing a comment but it went away to neverland. Anyway, you WILL get published because you are an awesome, inspirational writer!
    We move to our new house on March 27th and hope to have a welcome party some time in May so stay on town that month, PLEASE?

  2. Cheryl White

    Love it …. It is going to be a VERY exciting year for you – I can’t wait to watch 🙂

  3. Darrell Lake

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we could learn these hard lessons in life without having had to live through them? We have been told that we become stronger when we are able to come through the darkest of nights but why do we have too? But then I realize I can only learn so much from others like yourself who has experienced such but in reality can never truly comprehend what it is like till one experiences it for themselves… God bless you Marlyss for sharing and helping us to at least gain a little understanding in these areas. Yes we all no doubt have chapters in our lives we would like to edit for one reason or another ?

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