The Power of Editing
For the longest time
my youngest daughter
wanted to write
but was frustrated, intimidated and stymied
in a carnivorous quagmire
because she wanted the words to come out perfectly the first time.
(Immediate gratification isn’t that satisfying anyway…)
I am so grateful she has learned the power of editing.
She now understands that you just start.
It doesn’t matter how bad it is because you are not done yet.
flying from New York to California
is off course
over 90% of the time.
But he routinely arrives in the right place.
He just continually keeps correcting his course.
Instead of ever proofreading her work,
with a thwarting red pen in hand,
(now there’s a show stopper for you)
I simply taught her the joy of doing it herself.
So examining any draft, she spell checks.
She reads it aloud to get the punctuation right.
Are all those proper nouns capitalized?
She hunts for strategies to show instead of say.
She finds better ways to express mood and facilitate flow.
She locates vignettes to expand,
and identifies rambles to truncate into conciseness.
To her delight, the Thesaurus is a superbly supportive friend.
She’s discovering the incredible impact of an especially excellent verb.
Alliteration and assonance are fun to play with.
Dialogue perks up anything.
Can her reader hear, smell, taste and touch it?
How about indulging in an onomatopoeia?
She now sees there are so many ways to communicate something.
There is no one right way.
She’s even started doing various prototype first drafts
before choosing one to edit.
What tense? Maybe that should be changed to make it more refreshing and invigorating.
What perspective? Maybe a different one would be more interesting and illuminating.
What emphasis? Maybe what is important is better said by splicing small hints together.
Wow, her fiction now is strong and rich.
She’s even started to consider becoming a novelist
because this process is so enjoyable.
When I pray, I use a similar method,
working with improved ideas until I’m at peace.
When I paint, too, I develop the image
by amplifying detail and contrast until I sense completion.
I’m decent at photography, only because I take a ton of pictures,
and then ruthlessly trash most of them.
Decluttering and organizing my home, is another a blatant parallel.
I constantly make adjustments in my menu and schedule as I get new information.
In a relationship, as understanding of each other grows, alterations occur for a better fit.
Some things are hard to edit, however,
like a word rashly spoken.
Wherever the edit option is unavailable,
notice a glaring danger zone
with protruding flashing lights
and proceed with utmost caution.
Thankfully, though, most of human life can be edited.
your behavior, your job, your school, your location,
your thoughts, your habits, your values, your goals,
your stuff, your movements, your health,
your reading, your friends, your beliefs,
your preferences, your hobbies,
how you spend your time…
Perfection is just a work in progress.
Don’t worry if you are off course or your draft is bad.
Be happily engaged
in modifying, amending, polishing, and rearranging.
You’ll eventually arrive
catapulted and thrilled
at your customized
destination, out beyond tremendous,
farther than your most flagrant hopes
and nearer than your dearest dreams.
Now that is satisfying.Polly Castor