Back into harness I go. The notes on the book are in and I must do the hard edit. I wrote a ridiculous number of words, and many of them must be slaughtered. Usually, I get around this horror by creating a dead darlings file, where all the slashed paragraphs may go. This eases the pain. But today I find that every damn line appears to be a darling and I cling onto them all with crabbed fingers. I see the thing is far too baggy and self-indulgent, but I can’t see where to put the knife in. I must summon my ruthless self. That muscle is flaccid, and I must stretch and bend until it is hard and taut again.
Oddly enough, my physical muscles are in pretty good shape. This is most unusual for me, since for years I eschewed any kind of exercise as the height of vulgarity. (That was my excuse and I was sticking to it.) The mare got me fit without even meaning to. It’s not just the riding, it’s the daily moving about, the carrying and the lifting, all the ordinary work that goes into caring for a horse in all weathers. At the age of forty-seven, I have a body that works again. I went for a delightful Sunday ride yesterday, and I was suddenly aware of the luxury of physical efficiency. It is the only area in my life where I am efficient. This leg knows where to go, that arm understands what it must do, this back instinctively goes the right way. When I am on a horse, I feel at home, as if my ligaments and sinews had been designed with an equine in mind. I am not a brilliant rider, but when I am in the saddle I am at ease, as if it is where I belong.
Now I need to cudgel my mind into the same state for editing. Writing a first draft is a wild gallop. The most important thing is to let yourself go. Throw the reins at the thing, and kick on. Editing is like dressage, a matter of fierce control and discipline. I feel like a brumby who has suddenly been sent to Carl Hester. I want to buck and bronc, but I must learn flying changes. I suspect it may take a day or two. And a great deal of iron tonic.
Some quick pictures from the last few days: