There’s an old saying that too much of a good thing is bad. I certainly know that too much cake makes your stomach hurt. Too much suns gives you a sunburn. Cake isn’t bad (well, it is, but we don’t want to talk about that) and neither is sunshine, but in excess it becomes problematic.
Recently, I’ve been watching Star Wars. Unlike most people, I did not grow up on it, so I have no childhood attachment to it. The bottom line is that I like it, but I’m also critical of it. I can see its faults. One might think the romance between Padme and Anakin is a fault, but that’s not what I was yawning over last night as I sat through Attack of the Clones. No, my complaint with George Lucas’ epic film series is still what it has always been… each installment is too long.
Come to think of it, most things are too long, particularly action flicks. It’s that old adage again, too much of a good thing. Most people raved about The Dark Knight. I enjoyed it, but thought it was too long. The plot could have ended with the defeat of the Joker. Did we really need to move on for another twenty-five minutes with Two Face?
Attack of the Clones has a lot going on. But are you really telling me that twenty minutes couldn’t have been shaved off collectively from Anakin chasing the assassin through the skies, he and Padme escaping the slicing machines, the epic battle in the arena, and three different Jedi Knights fighting Count Dooku?
Or how about The Lord of the Rings? Epic film series, amazing stuff, and hands down my favorite franchise of all time. But PJ could have shortened each installment. Once you’ve seen one orc head cut off, you’ve seen them all. He does a great job interspersing battles with other stuff so you don’t realize how actually long they are, but he suffers from the same problem most male directors do: more is better. More battles, more angst, more charges, more bang for your buck. But when does more become too much?
An essential key to successful writing is “less is more.” Better to have a shorter book that people never want to end than a lumbering tome that takes six months to read or that no one ever picks up because it looks so daunting. Much as I love Gone With the Wind, does it really have to be about a thousand pages? And while we’re at it, while hands down J.K. Rowling is my favorite writer, I don’t think her last three books needed to be that long, either. I recently read an agent’s take on writing. She said, “If that word or idea doesn’t further the plot, what’s it doing there?”
Peter Jackson and George Lucas couldn’t see the faults in their own material because they were too close to it. The same goes for James Cameron or for that matter, anyone else who writes, directs, and produces a film. Every project needs a good editor, someone who is objective and can point to something and say, “I know you love this, but it would be just as amazing in half as many words.”
Everything needs an editor. Someone who isn’t emotionally involved and can measure the project on its own merit and not on its individual faults.
My life needs an editor. I can’t see the areas in which it needs pruned or where I may be straying into “too much of a good thing.” Fortunately, God is also in my life, and if there’s one thing He is good at, it’s editing. There are days it isn’t fun, when I dig in my heels and screech, “Do you know how much time I spent working on that??” but in the end, like a good editor, He knows best. I have to trust Him. I have to want my life to not just be a big, sprawling epic, but a good sprawling epic.
Many things in this world are good. But with a little more editing, they could be great.