There’s so much to learn about the balance for a writer between the creating and the shaping. It’s not as simple as: write when you’re writing and edit when you’re editing. Having practised (and practiced) free writing recently I’ve been reminded that words do flow onto the page much more readily when I leave my inner editor out.
Keeping the editor out of our creating phase is really important. But what about the other way around — editor in, writer out?
I used to think (until not long ago, I’m embarrassed to admit) that editing was a completely dry task. Even, perhaps, the opposite of creating. But the line is a bit blurrier than that.
Editing engages the story at an intense level. Editing scrutinises, judges and decides. Editing makes choices about words and punctuation that affect the rhythm of the entire work. So, even at a mirco level, editing affects critical aspects of story, such as narrative and character, themes and voice. A good editor reads with their eyes and their ears. Rhythm is heard, while the eyes take in the meaning.
It’s not just a matter of chopping words here and there, occasionally whole sentences, or killing a darling (character, plot line, etc.) or two. It’s about providing yourself with the best analytical service you can muster. Really having a go at reading your own work with fresh eyes …
To achieve this, we need a complete rest from the work (a month, a year … ) and/or to engage in a completely different project (again, timeframe is up to each author but often longer than you’d like it to be!). We also need a trusted reader to engage with the story and its author about the aims and achievements of the work.
So, a break between creating and editing is vital to writing in flow. You can’t hope to create freely with your Left Brain sitting on your shoulder analysing every word. And you can’t expect to see your work in the critical light required of an editor if you’re still in that state of surprise or love or fear or desperation that you reached in order to write these emotions.
See also previous post: Writer in, editor out.