Thank Buddha for editing – it’s not about the writing it’s about the editing

Writers complain about rewriting and editing. I say, thank Buddha (or the pray guy of your choice) for editing. What if we had to go with the first thing we flung on the page. What if we had to use the first half-baked idea that came into our milky-tea addled brains. Thank Buddha for the sober second chance (and third and forth) that rewriting gives us.

I am reminded of two incidents. The first was with my friend Sandy. We took a pottery class together. She had taken one before but had forgotten how hard it was. She’d forgotten that it takes about three years to learn how to centre the clay on the wheel. She’d forgotten about the extensive clean up ritual that involved scrapping the dried clay off the table so there wouldn't be any clay dust in the air. It takes a long time not to suck at pottery. So, as the first class progressed, we both realized our visions of giving clay mugs and pots away for Christmas were dashed. Attempt after attempt resulted in Sandy destroying her pottery.

“I’m no good at this,” she grumbled.

“Think of each attempt as an entry into the diary of your progress as a potter,” I said.

“You better have Scotch at your house,” she countered. My house was within walking distance of the studio.

By the time the class was finished, Sandy realized that if she quit she wouldn’t get her money back. She was going to get a doctor’s note saying she was allergic to clay.

Janet Reid posted an inspiring story on her blog about a ceramic artist and the process she goes through creating a pot. Instead of deleting words and editing a sentence, she smashes each pot that isn't perfect to discover why, and to start again.

The other incident was in Peter Carver’s Writing for Children class in Toronto. One woman was late for the class. She rushed in and declared that she had pulled over on the side of the road to write a story about a dog. Her daughter, who was teaching in a remote northern community, had phoned the woman before class and told her about this stray dog. She read the story in class. She had the story down as a narrative (all telling, no showing) now she needed to write it as a story.

In your development as a writer, at a certain point it’s not about the writing. The writing is good. In fact the writing is as fine as sour ju jubes dipped in chocolate. It’s about the editing. It’s about the story. It’s about dissecting your story like a frog soaking in formaldehyde to see what works, and what needs to change to make it work as a story.

Once again, thank the supreme being of your choice for editing.

Sandy didn’t quit pottery, she did get better, and the scotch helped.


Angie said…
Great post. That's so true about editing. What would we do without it?
Anonymous said…
This post is right on, Jan-O,

It's all about the rewrite. Everytime I purge a manuscript, the core of the story shines brighter. It's like going on a dig, finding a fossil then polishing it up for display. Love it, addicted to it.
Jocosa of the Earrings
Jade said…
That was really awesome post. Thank you for that!