While writing this blog I have often tried generalizing on behalf of all artists, not just writers. The problem with the topic of editing, however, is that I have no idea how an artist of a different tradition than writing go about editing, if at all. I trust that my painter friend, Alexandra, will enlighten me sometime after reading this post and finding out that I for once don't know something. I imagine that even painters and sculptors do some form of editing especially as they prepare for a show, which, by the way, Alexandra is now preparing for; I figured I had to mention that so that folks who have been reading this blog questioning, "Who is this Alexandra person?" can check out her work.
For writers, editing is perhaps the most crucial stage of the writing process. Some writers are able to either work everything out in their head or in an outline prior to writing or can write and write well the first attempt. Very few writers fall into that category. And even those that do need good editing. Each and every piece of writing will need at least a touch-up if the writer wants it to be as good as possible. Enacting that touch-up, or perhaps a remodeling, or perhaps even a whole make-over, requires plenty of care and patience and skill. You don't want to ruin the integrity of the work by re-phrasing a sentence or adding a comma that doesn't rhyme with the rest of the work. That would be tragic.
I am not one of those writers anyway. Whenever I write an outline, which I often do, I rarely stick to it anyway once I begin writing--I realize that the outline wasn't put in the best order, didn't take everything into account, and simply wasn't suited to writing. Throwing away disordered outlines doesn't ever mean that my product orders itself through the act of writing. It's a fact of life that just about everything I do will require editing after my first attempt. Sometimes that editing will only take half an hour, sometimes it takes a week. I've gotten used to it. Thankfully, I enjoy the editing process--not as much as writing, but to a great extent editing is writing--and frankly it's probably what I'm best at. No doubt I'd make an excellent professional editor. (If you're looking for one, please pay me)
Since I am in the editing process for the next week or so, at least that's my estimation, I figured I should write about it. Now I've written all I care to on the subject. I will add, though, that editing is a skill we should all learn. I mean, to some extent writing and editing make appearances in a great many jobs and occupations so editing will be useful there. But editing is more than that. When we edit we learn that there is room for improvement in our work; when we learn that there is room for improvement in our work we learn that we are not perfect; when we learn we are not perfect we strive for perfection; when we strive for perfection we hopefully fulfill our potential and, in Oscar Wilde's terms, fulfill our personality. At the very least a world where people have fulfilled their personalities--become fully who they should and want to be--would be a much more exciting place and not full of dull characters. I, for one, would hate to be dull or "ordinary" in any way.