Editing—like vegetables—is something I’ve come to see the necessity of. Editing—is it similar to that appropriately titled movie—It Came from Outer Space? It seems like that to me sometimes, as it’s so alien and different and foreign from the practice of writing.
Writing is a rush, for me: it’s freeing; it’s liberating; it’s exhilarating; akin to a runner’s high, I imagine. Editing, mmm, not so much. Editing used to be a labor, but not of love. Editing used to be a chore, something I avoided, studiously and steadfastly.
I disliked it, and it was an exercise in frustration . . . and futility, and it was boring, and was not something that I wanted to do, not striking the same note as writing does when I’d rather be doing something more fun, like writing, which is comes easy to me (but still takes work and requires a lot of hard work and determination and discipline and dedication to my craft and improving myself at the craft of writing); easier than editing anyway, which has been a learned skill, and something I’ve picked up as I go, and with practice.
So I just concentrated on writing, turning on the tap (when I turned it on) and letting the creativity flow full blast, and left the editing alone. There was resistance to editing my works, which is why I have a backlog of work that needs editing, as I’d rather be writing. (This gets me motivated to go back and edit my stuff now!)
Editing for me back in the early days of my writing was something that I stopped doing, as I would get stuck fussing over the page (or paragraph) that I was on—endlessly—as my perfectionistic nature rose to the fore. This caused me to give up in frustration. Now I wait until I’m finished with the work before I start to edit it. There’s something indescribable about the experience of editing for me, but I shall try.
So why have I come to have and gained more of a genuine and hard earned respect for editing? I see the value in it, from self-editing my own works, which I think every author ought to consider doing, and learning the skill and craft of. It might make you a better writer.
I like the challenge of making my words sing, making what I wrote better. I like the challenge, and the satisfaction, of editing my work and parsing those sentences, cutting out and removing unnecessary words; to get to the truth; to get to the most beneficial, the most constructive word choices and order of words, for the most impact, the most effect. Editing is a creative act unto itself. This quote by George F. Pentecost sums up my process, my perspective on it, if you will:
“It is the sculptor’s power, so often alluded to, of finding the perfect form and features of a goddess, in the shapeless block of marble; and his ability to chip off all extraneous matter, and let the divine excellence stand forth for itself. Thus, in every incident of business, in every accident of life, the poet sees something divine, and carefully scales off all that encumbers that divinity, and permits it to be revealed in all its transcendent loveliness.”
If the words are my block of marble, I like chiseling them down to the finest and sharpest shape they can be: a precise, paring away of all unnecessary words in order to get to the true beauty inside of the block of marble, to get to the true power of the words, to get to their strength.
Now, I look forward to editing. It doesn’t replace the rush and the exhilaration—creatively—of writing, but I have a respect and appreciation for it. But now I love editing. Like a good friendship. It’s something I’ve come to love; a true labor of love.