A writing teacher once told me, “All writing can be improved.”
That means editing and rewriting. A process that strikes terror into the hearts of writers. The many layers of this process can be an emotional nightmare for the sensitive writer. It’s especially difficult if you don’t have confidence in your abilities, or have doubts about your work.
If you’ve read The Artist’s Way, you’ll have taken a number of steps to silence your inner critic and to just write. This is a great thing for the first draft. Move past the, “This won’t work,” and just get you ideas flowing. Sadly, at some point you do need to take a critical eye at your work and polish it.
The question for me always gets down to, “How polished is polished enough?” For my weekly blogs, I edit them, Heather edits them and I post them. In woodworking terms this would be the “Satin” finish – intentionally not glossy. Intentional, sightly dull. It’s work saver as the result is intended to be, er dull. Most of the time this is good enough as my audience here knows that and is willing to spend a little time reading something with a few rough edges.
And in any case, next week there will be another post, so if this one doesn’t work, maybe the next will.
However, there are things that deserve a high polish or that “Glossy” finish. If you’ve ever tried this with wood finishes you’ll know how hard it is to get that varnish to shine bright without a single scratch.
Some writing deserves this level of editing polish. My poetry is one piece of my writing that I feel needs this level of effort. I have struggled over how to achieve that polish. One question I really struggle with is, “Is this polished enough?”
As a writer I can become blind to my own mistakes and my own omissions. There are poems in my collection that are meaningful to me and make perfect sense in my mind, but when read by someone else, are confusing and flawed. There is no way for a writer to know when he’s failed to communicate, except by taking the words he’s crafted and giving them to others to read and comment on.
It’s easy for me to give someone a copy of my book, but to listen to what they have to say is difficult. It’s far too easy to take a bit of criticism personally and feel I’ve failed. The feedback often reinforces my basic insecurities and doubts or triggers that old feeling of rejection that can be soul crushing.
Still, the one thing I am sure of, is that to properly perfect a piece of writing I have to let it leave my hands and let others react to it. I’ve been doing that with my book. So far Heather has read through it twice and one trusted has friend read it. Both have provided detailed notes and suggestions. I’ve read through it again and again trying to see the defects and correct them.
A few of weeks ago I decided to send the work to a professional editor for copy editing, feedback and criticism. I received the editor’s edits and notes this week.
Wow, what an eye opener. I must have paid by the edit. Few, if any lines are untouched. Emotionally it could bring on an overwhelming feeling of failure and wanting to give up.
Except, that I know this is part of the process and when I can push my emotional reaction aside, I know that what I am being told will improve the work. In the edits there are changes in punctuation, tense and other things I do badly. In the notes, are comments questioning what a line means, pointing out redundancies, and even a note suggesting that a whole poem be deleted.
Now that I have this, it’s time again to revisit the words and see if I can improve on the story I am trying to tell.
Till next week,