A valued friend (who is also a fellow aspiring writer) and I had an interesting discussion the other day about the editing process and how painful it is.
I often begin the writing process by tapping into my unconscious and letting my fingers and keyboard do the talking. I pay little consideration to grammar or punctuation in this first phase as I feel that it is detrimental to my ‘flow’. I save the document and leave it at least three or four days before I give it a look over with a fresh set of eyes. It is then that abject horror begins to grip at my innards when my ineptitude as a writer is thrust painfully in my face.
At first glance, the words that I have written appear to be a jumbled and poorly articulated mess. It is only after I force myself into editing mode that I begin to chip away at the rough edges of the piece, smoothing over and correcting the grammar, punctuation and general spelling, all of which seemed to have failed me in the first phase of writing.
After several edits and much polishing, I begin to believe that I might just be able to salvage something from the car crash of a chapter. Hope begins to take residence in my heart and makes me believe that I am perhaps not the awful writer that I appeared to be several days and edits ago.
A first edit is rather like being forced in front of a large audience in nothing but your underwear. It is deeply uncomfortable and highly embarrassing. Yet we as writers subject ourselves to a constant cycle of feelings of hope and despair and we do so gladly, safe in the belief that writing is a journey, one that may be painful at times, but a journey that we are required to make nonetheless.
Some writers use the services of others to proof and edit their work, but I find that thought quite frightening, almost akin to presenting your firstborn child to some random stranger and them telling you that he or she is ugly and stupid. Given the choice, I would much rather stick in the cycle of being my own worst critic and harshest editor. That way, if I don’t agree with what my inner critic says I can just ignore it and pretend that it never existed.