Step away from the red pen and no one gets hurt.


I am weary of red pens because I know exactly what they mean.

A red pen, in the editor’s world, symbolizes cross outs, suggestions, side margin scripture and ultimately: change. It is a brave act, to compose a piece that you might like to call your “best work” and allow it to meet the wrath of a red pen, ready to annihilate and abuse with punctuation and grammar. But that is totally fine with me, place a comma where it needs to be. Go ahead and add the missing semi colon. But don’t touch my story line. DO NOT TOUCH MY STORY LINE.

Perhaps someone needs a little lesson in growing up: People are going to come into our lives and they are going to touch our story lines. We will come face to face with many “red pens” throughout our lives but it is up to us to allow ourselves to be changed by them.

I am one to get googly-eyed over fate. I will watch Serendipity a good 300 times and never get tired of the idea of someone meeting me in a little restaurant in New York City. I am fan of little coffee shops that hold the potential of love at first sight and airport terminals where two lovers could possibly reunite. But even with an embarrassing love for chick flicks, I still believe that we make a choice at the end of the day.

We are always choosing. Choosing to love, leave, try and let go. We choose who we will hand over the manuscript of our heart to. Who We Will Trust To Be Careful With Their Red Cursive. Who we believe is worthy to allow our hearts to be written on and potentially changed completely by the writing of another’s words.

There are those who come around and they mark up our hearts by just being there, but even if we say we have no control over what they do to us, we do. We can take the pen away, sometimes thankfully and other times with grief, with sorrow that we have to force them to place down their final point of punctuation and walk away without our heart.

It is crazy to me but I think it happens every day. I think about all the people I see in passing one day and I sometimes wonder about what parts of their hearts have gone missing or belong to someone else, or have veiled by the markings of another. It is crazy to me to think we could potentially walk around like this forever.

But that is the point of a red pen: to make changes. When another picks up the pen and scatters their comments all over us, we have to be the ones to step forward for a second draft. Our lives may be edited over and over again, every single day, and I will honest in saying that I like the idea of never being the same from one interaction to the next.

But I will always, always, always question whether or not if I meet someone in this life will I ever have to question if I should have let them hold the pen longer.

Because here is the trickiest and the scariest thing to admit: that we could meet someone and be o.k. with them touching our story line, for better or worse. We could grant them that permission to add new ideas and change the beginnings and the transitions. We could grant them permission to change the our most precious possession: their ending. They might change that period into a comma. They might cross out take that lower case letter and turn it upper. They might, they might, they might.

But like I said, I am weary of red pens because I know exactly what they mean.

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30 thoughts on “Step away from the red pen and no one gets hurt.

  1. This just may be my favorite post so far, Hannah. Beautiful imagery and ideas that I completely agree with. You never cease to impress me with your words!

  2. V. nice! You maintain the image in a wonderful manner, Hannah. That you have developed your writing to this level astounds me.

    How true that, if we invite another individual to rearrange the cadences of our lives, they will reveal to us new possibilities, and show us the stark significance of events we passed over all too quickly, if we but submit to their art. But you are quite right… this is a risky business, and unnerving, though I think this is only the half of what you meant.

    1. Thank you Leslie. I am so happy that you like my writing.

      And I think you are absolutely right, especially showing us the events we passed over too quickly. Great point.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  3. This is a great, insightful and very evolved piece of writing, Katy. It has affected me greatly in light of an unanticipated but early-detected ‘red pen’ – a pulmonary embolism – that arrived in my body Monday. It’s the kind of ‘red pen’ that I’m just now beginning to fully appreciate and one that will change my outlook forever. Keep up your posts – you are touching us all.

    1. Jenny,

      Thank you so much for your words Jenny. I am so grateful that this post was able to touch you in such a manner. I will surely keep up the posting and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  4. I hate red pens. As someone who has never done well in school, I have collected gallons upon gallons of red ink on various papers through out my school career and now if I even see a note scribbled in red ink my heart beat gets faster and my mind races with all the things that I could have possibly done wrong. So when I was given an editor-type position at a work shop a few years back I KNEW I could never EVER use a red pen on anyone else’s work, so what did I do? I searched far and wide and long for the perfect purple pen. Also I drew LOTS of stars, smiley faces and hearts.

  5. I agree with what you are saying. Giving someone the power to markup our heart is hard. Sometimes taking it away is even harder. Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have given them “the red pen.” All in all though, it is worth it because someday someone comes along and writes the most beautiful thing correction, and we are never the same. What a magnificent post. Loved it!

  6. I love the way you draw this out. I think the most important thing in letting someone write their own comments and make suggestions in your margins is just that mutual respect, so the middle ground you’re negotiating over is a safe place.

    I know that when I came into Mister’s life he was moving to the US, no questions asked. He came within 12 hours of moving away and called it off- and those 12 hours are responsible for my whole life as I know it.

    I’m a bit of a fatalist too =)

  7. I’m a full believer in “everything happens for a reason.” The choices we make, the mistakes we’ve experienced – they’ve all happened to lead us to something. Now, I may not know right now what that something is for me, but I know I’m going to find it.

    We have to hold onto faith and hope, because without those, what do we have?

    The best we can hope for is that someone comes into our lives and we can change with them together, for the better.

  8. I love this post, Hannah!

    I love the red pen when it’s in my own hand, but cower with my hand over my eyes when someone else is wielding it. Relating editing to relationships in this way is just perfect.

    1. Thank you Leanne! I am the exact same way, so hesitant to let some one else hold the red pen for a while… I am learning to be better at this.. a work in progress. Good to know I am not alone.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  9. What a well-written post! I agree that it is a choice we make, and I’d like to think that even though we’re opening ourselves up for a potentially broken heart, that it might just be worth it. So we keep doing it over and over again, and make the choice to allow others in, because we hope that it will be worth it one day. I think it would be very sad to ever get to the point where you don’t let people in anymore because you’re afraid.

    1. Karen, thank you for your kind words. I am with you, I like to think that it is worth it as well. Life has a funny little way of working everything out.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  10. I LOVED this.

    Sometimes it’s so so hard to take away the red pen from someone that you thought would use it ‘wisely’….

    1. Agreed love. Funny how easy it is to hand off the red pen to someone we think is right but it is nearly impossible to take it away when they prove us wrong.

      Happy to hear from ya.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  11. Hannah,
    Another beautiful and insightful post as always! I empathize with your weariness towards the dreaded red pen, but for you I feel the “red pen” is a blessing. You constantly are changing people’s lives with all the good that you do. Don’t fear this pen, for it is a way for you to realize all that is left unsaid for your future. Change is intimidating, but you’re going to take on the world by storm, and I can’t wait until you use that pen to write yourself into so many others’ personal stories.

    Miss you and love you!
    Jill

    1. Jill,

      Thank you so much for that comment. It made my day to read that. I am so lucky to have someone like you in my life.

      I miss you so.

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

  12. Hannah Katy, I absolutely adore your blog. I rarely discover such honest writing, and this post is such a treasure! Can’t wait to read more… 😉

  13. Maybe (extending your wonderful metaphor) it’s just a matter of changing the connotations. It’s not a red pen, it’s a pencil annotation. It’s not a correction, it’s a suggested alteration.

    As brilliant as always. Can I hire you to send me daily soundbites by text? 😛

    Love the drawing by the way: is it one of yours?

    1. It is actually not my drawing.

      But we could totally work something out where I send soundbites daily… Ha ha maybe I should work on producing a calendar? 365 days of wisdom from yours truly?

      Best,

      Hannah Katy

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