When I was little, I thought that the expression ‘turning over a new leaf’ meant something to do with the leaves that grow on trees.
In fact, when I hear the phrase today – even though I know better – I still imagine a single, freshly-fallen leaf being turned over in somebody’s hands.
The phrase, of course, actually refers to the leaf, or page of a book. The metaphor is pretty clear: if you turn a new page, you find yourself amongst new words, new concepts – or maybe a new chapter set in a completely new place or time. Or perhaps the new leaf is a blank page, which is waiting to be filled with new ideas and new possibilities.
At the moment, I am – literally – turning several new leaves every day. I’m editing Fierce Resistance, and transforming it into a spanking new edition.
Why on earth would I want to do that? Well, the truth is I’m a tinkerer and a perfectionist. When I re-read my writing I always think something could be better. I also want the endpapers of Fierce Resistance to tell people about my two subsequent books, The JASMINE Portfolio and Mouse.
And things in the world have changed since I wrote Fierce Resistance! When I penned the earliest chapters, which see Beth Hardy embarking on her daring adventure – all innocence and inexperience, and armed with none of the heroic skills she learns later on – many people were still using mobile phones which had to be flipped open before you used them (I know, right?). So I’ve had to pen Beth a nice new smartphone, so that she stays being the modern girl I want her to be.
I think tinkering is a good thing. Another name for it is self-improvement. As I work through the book, it fascinates me how re-jigging where a paragraph starts or ends, or removing or inserting a punctuation mark, or changing a couple of words here and there … can subtly calm the mood, or quicken the pace – or make everything clearer, more exciting or more poignant. Words (and the pauses between them) have the potential to be even more powerful, if we adjust them in just the right way.
I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions, but I do like to use the turning over of a new year to stop and reflect upon how I can be a better and braver person. A bit like turning that leaf over in my hands and considering its beauty, and its imperfections.
I think writing has taught me that tiny alterations can make a massive difference … so, may your 2018 be full of amazing little changes, which in turn lead to a fantastic, rewarding, lifelong adventure.