Bell's MACRO-EDIT: A more direct route to your next relationship than online dating

“Dear Erin,” the sentence began. A tiny bit more peeked from the text line in my inbox. “Congratulations!” I could see it but not believe it. So that is how that line looks when it’s not a rejection.

“It is an essay that was rejected twice before,” I texted my aunt.

“Weird how that goes,” was her reply.

Hmm, not really I considered when I pulled forth my personal rolodex as a quick flipbook of memory. “It’s like dating,” I quipped.

“LOL,” typed the sixty year old I admired always for the earrings in a row up her lobe and the brightly painted toenails every summer on her bare feet.

Writing. Dating. How would the response e-mail read when it comes from Match.com? Probably eerily close to “I’m not the right person for the project.” Or “We receive many submissions and our availability is limited.”

The two largest pieces of evidence to exemplify my transition year’s achievements are 1) my post Guatemala wardrobe unpacked, sifted and enhanced in my closet, and 2) the fact that my computer files are also unpacked, sifted and enhanced to focus on writing. My closet holds distinctive shoes and dresses bought online as well as all the basics in black. The writing files have about the same tone. A base built daily through persistence and carefully folded phrasing stored and waiting for special days when I can take them out bask in their elegance. Gone are the descriptors “random”, “hidden” and “fine for now” in the word documents now filling a multiplicity of folders.

“Your essay, 'Heirloom Seeds,' has been accepted for inclusion in the Spring, 2016 issue of The Sonder Review! All accepted stories will be proofread and edited for grammar and clarity,” was to be found in the body of the e-mail as I read on. I was yet to wear that one black skirt on a date, so words had a head start on clothes in usefulness. Still, how exciting to get the chance to build this relationship. I felt the joy of the second date. With a new outfit for each macro-edit as determined by Susan Bell, I can work towards a summer of dinners, coffees and movies. If I can just stay focused and diligent, maybe there’s a guy out there for me yet, but if not, there’s a book deal. While reading “The Artful Edit” I took note of how.

INTENTION: My objective. Slowly I watched professional chaos solidify into very specific and detailed folders on my hard drive. “What is it that I want? Freedom? Security? What am I trying to do here? Pursue a job? Pursue a dream? Where am I going with this? In short, “what are you looking for in this relationship? What can this essay do for me or my audience that no other piece of writing has been asked to do yet? Last year, I wouldn’t have known the answer, but now I am convinced I am in this for the long term. Let the speed dating commence because the end game is book or bust. Marriage till death do us part.

CHARACTER: The players. I must take steps to ensure that I am the protagonist, and my voice expresses what I want. What do I want? I am looking for my match, an agent, and I’ve given up the fairy tale from childhood. The one that brings the prince out of nowhere when I least expect it. I am looking and I’m using the technology available, online dating, I mean querying, of course. I read the blogs, the books published like a little black book of former significant others. What are they looking for? What do they want? What do I want? Can we achieve this marriage together or will we be eternally disappointed? I need to be sure because marriage certificate or otherwise, a legal document will be involved.

STRUCTURE: The form that holds it all together. I have never dated online, but when I googled common questions, I found lots of examples about structure, principally human structure and social structure: age, height, weight, religion, body type, income, education, medical issues, children, sexual orientation, hobbies, interests. I mean, really, be honest, about how this thing going to work. Will we communicate in rhythm? Will our lack of compatibility create tension? While Bell cautions that it can be better to have a structure that initially doesn’t match than none at all, in the end, a structural edit will fix all manner of other smaller issues so be honest with yourself. I guess that means I take another look back at intention and character again, keeping my eyes open and identifying examples of how my writing or my relationship should look.

FORESHADOWING: Keep it interesting. If I don’t keep it “interesting”, perhaps I can at least make my desired ending plausible. A shared task to build towards a goal in common. I feel like I am on a job interview. I suppose the first phone call after the dating profile match or the author bio have the same effect. Make it as much about them as you. What can your work or working with you bring to their lives? Give something of yourself before you ask for more from them. Foreshadowing is the encouragement that feeds the illusion of a finish, an achievement. Questions reflect: What are you most proud about? Questions give: What is your most treasured possession? Questions forge the way towards connection. When you ask a leading question, the audience considers the answer you hope for.

THEME: Insert enough of yourself to leave them wanting more and then provide it in an accessible way. This is where I persist in my writing but struggle in relationships. It’s such a hard balance to strike, but your writing gives you time to write and revise pages until your theme floats to the top and urges you ever forward. The relationship doesn’t usually afford that kind of time. I’m either too cold initially, providing the template query letter to the last period, but hedging against the sting of rejection. Or, after I feel frustrated from the weeks of silence, I burst, talk excessively, give too much away, thinking if I could just write one more letter or include one more detail about myself, the response on the other end would be different.

CONTINUITY OF TONE: Be consistent. Speak in line with your objective. Don’t say what you think they want to hear nor invent passion that does not exist. This feels very much like “be yourself”. It may seem tired, but forcing something that isn’t there is more difficult than starting again. I threw a lot of clothes away both before and after I stepped onto the airplane in Guatemala City. I said, “yes” to one item of clothing each time I went shopping and built a closet of items that I considered worth wearing, not reactive to a particular emotion. I sent items back that didn’t fit to create a constant in my tone of being. The ones my aunt could alter, perhaps hemming a pant leg or securing a button, I could keep. I combated fear of both spending and saving in order to stand out, to be published, but not as anyone but me.

I think I could ride on the high of this acceptance e-mail for a few rounds. The next time my brother asks to set up my online dating profile, maybe I’ll let him. I could do worse.

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