There are 6 ways editing is like freaking life and should become a habit.
Since editing is like freaking life, as I have already stated, it should be habitual, like flossing, or being nice to the people who love us, or to the people who sign our paychecks. To paraphrase a famous singer, “I know which side my broad is better on.”
Now that we’ve established that editing is as offensive as slang from the Sixties, let’s get on with how editing is just like freaking life, shall we?
Editing is a necessary evil whether you’re a writer, a student, or someone who writes an email occasionally. The money I’ve made writing would bore an IRS agent out of his tiny mind, but I still study the art of editing, because I stink at it.
You probably think you’re above it all, if you just comment on a blog now and then, like a bunny rabbit leaves pellets, and therefore have no need to edit what you write.
The bunny doesn’t care if its pellets are annoying, and neither does the random tweeter and commenter. At least spell pellets correctly, and edit your comments in an effort to prove you are reasonably sane.
The 6 things that are annoying about editing are:
1) You’re never, ever finished.
I have a list of words that appear repeatedly in my writing. Just like a good haircut, the whole thing reads cleaner, and looks prettier, when the dead ends are gone.
No matter how many times I read my posts, I edit something. Extra words are lopped off. A sentence reads awkwardly, like the very one I’m writing, but I won’t see a better way to write it until the umpteenth time I’ve read it, and sometimes not even then.
How is this not like life?
Whatever your habits are, cleaning your house, growing vegetables, going to the gym, you’re never, ever done, and there’s always a better way to do it.
2) You should keep your damn mouth shut.
You never know how your writing will influence a reader, or how it might come back to bite you on your behind. Sharing your life and opinions in posts calls for caution.
I’m probably saying things right now you don’t like.
I once commiserated with a ‘friend’ on Facebook for the loss of someone she cared about. She got ticked at me. I never discovered how I had offended her, but after that, all I say on posts about personal loss is, ‘I’m sorry for your loss.’
No doubt that offends people who expect more sympathy.
Either age or selectivity has rendered my memory nil on the number of times I’ve said something I wish I could take back. Discretion is good practice if you’re ever on the witness stand, giving a deposition, or calling in sick to work.
The upside of not running off at the mouth is that courage will not be required to get you out of a hole you’ve dug for yourself.
Words should float in the air above our heads for a few seconds, giving us a chance to grab and stuff them back in our mouths so we can swallow them. On the other hand, you won’t know the effect of your words until they reach a listener’s brain, and are interpreted in that particular person’s insane way.
Recently, I read a post on another blog, and the subsequent comments about the dangers of swimming in a public pool. One commenter said she didn’t like doing aqua aerobics with old people because she was afraid they’d pee and poop in the water.
What the hell?
People bring un-housebroken babies to pools, but I don’t recall an adult ever defecating in one. Perhaps I lost consciousness once and did it myself.
Maybe I’ll write a post about thirty and forty year-olds who have STDs, and should not be allowed around the unsuspecting public. I’ll demand that their licenses be revoked, because they’re a danger on the road.
How dare she and others like her decide that age automatically confers incontinence and incompetence?
Until recently, the comment of a friend affected my desire to swim. She no longer swims because of trails of snot in the pool. I was so grossed out, it put me off swimming for eight years.
Well, if the paranoid get out of the pool, there is less pee, poop, and snot I need to worry about.
3) You have something significant to say, but don’t get to the point.
Don’t go around the mulberry bush and back again to make a point, and unless it’s an English paper, it doesn’t have to be repeated differently in a conclusion.
Sticking a metaphorical tongue out at your English teacher is a perk of being grown up.
My mom never wasted any words parenting. “Get your elbows off the table,” or “Don’t hit your sister,” were short and to the point. I remember them to this day.
My dad, on the other hand, would start a lecture and never finish. Do I remember his words of wisdom and disapprobation? No, I do not. Sorry, Dad.
Forgetting stuff you don’t want to remember is another perk of being a grown up.
4) You should go away, maybe to Canada, to get some perspective.
The Bahamas is even better as a destination. It’s not as big, and you’re only going to lie on the beach, anyway.
Sometimes I write for hours, finish a post, reread it several times and each time I edit it. I’ll head to the pool, or out on errands, and when I read the post later, rewriting awkward sentences and adding new business become as easy as dissing seniors.
If you leave something alone, you get perspective, just like problems in life.
5) You do things just to do them, like an inmate of an institution for the mentally challenged.
How many potholders does the world need, anyhow? I have umpteen ideas for posts that don’t get written. If I can’t make it flow, I let it go.
Same with choices in life.
If it doesn’t flow, let it go.
6) You should say it aloud.
Read your stuff out loud.
Even authors of children’s books have editors. Kids don’t want to hear sentences that don’t make sense. You’ll hear repeated words, and whether something sounds boring, misplaced, or irrelevant. I tried to teach middle school kids this, but I don’t think they ever tried it.
Important discussions deserve this kind of consideration. Saying words out loud to an empty room or a neutral participant gives them weight.
Wish I’d thought of this sooner, like forty years ago.
7) You should immediately do something about sudden inspiration, like maybe an apple has fallen off a tree onto your head, and you discover gravity.
(This is a bonus tip, and is not listed in the title of this post. I should have edited the headline.)
This isn’t so much about editing, as it is about writing it down when you think of it, and not trying to remember two hours later what struck your funny bone.
You won’t remember, and it’s lost forever. Make notes, begin to write about it when you can and then edit it.
See numbers one through six for further instruction.