I always thought I was pretty good at editing. Even though I never wanted to do it ever and have been putting off editing my book for about a year. But when I actually sit down to do it, I feel like it goes pretty well.
It’s just that I have a lot of other things to do instead of sitting down to do it.
Like writing new things. I always have so many ideas for new things to write! Like what if I wrote about thrifting in the ’90s in Seattle? Or maybe I could write about how the movie Manchester by the Sea shows that the patriarchy is really really bad for men? Or ooo, what about writing how activism is inherently queer? Or how Two Serious Ladies by Jane Bowles is about Jungian shadow work?? What if I wrote about all of the self-help books I’ve read over the last few years and how much I learned by taking the quizzes??
Also what if I actually followed through on those ideas? And omg what if I actually finished writing them??
My writing backlog looks a lot like my email drafts folder. I have so many half-written articles, notes in my phone about ideas I have, and so many pieces that are finished but haven’t found homes. Perhaps they haven’t found homes because a) I haven’t sent them to enough places yet b) they aren’t polished enough c) the internet is not ready for my brilliance. I’m always inclined to think it is the last one, but recently I’ve started considering b), and I guess, following that, a).
Since I started medication for ADHD, I’ve been able to not only write more, but I’ve been able to look over my work in a different way. I used to see editing as cutting things that sucked, or as Hemingway suggests, keeping only the very best lines. I mean, I keep a lot of mediocre lines. Or extraneous lines. Or lines that have a metaphor that I like a lot that doesn’t actually quite work but I’ve always liked the metaphor of flight so that bird is staying in there.
It’s easier not only to sustain my attention to a piece I’m working on, it’s easier to remember to go back to it over and over again, and to think about it even when it’s not in front of me. The tinyletter I’ve been writing about race and white privilege/accountability requires a lot of editing. They take a week to complete, because the topic is so difficult and concern matters of conscience and awareness, which creates a lot of confusion and self-doubt for me. And I actually think that’s a good thing to sift through before pressing send. So I go over these again and again, several times a day, sometimes for hours.
I never used to be able to do that.
I almost feel ripped off about it, in a way. Just think about all the work I could have finished up!! I could have written like three books to be embarrassed about by now!!
I mean, I’m not editing these blog posts all that much. I heard an interview with the writer of The Everywhereist, and she was asked if she ever regretted any of her writing on her blog, since she updates it 5 times per week and writes about fairly personal shit. The question is obviously sexist. Men are never asked if they regret writing openly about their lives, they are just congratulated for it. But she said something really interesting to me. She said of course she did, basically everything from 2012-16 she would like to pretend never happened. But she leaves it up there, because she thinks personal growth is nothing to be ashamed of.
I agree with that completely, and I also like this new ability to actually edit my work when it’s important to do so. I used to think of editing as the lexical version of the cutting room floor. Excising, slicing, discarding. But now it feels more like a process of listening and trying to understand what I’m saying and how to do it authentically. It’s more of a dialogue, and it’s more of a friendly dialogue, in the way certain friends can call you on your shit without you taking it personally, in a way you can hear. So when I read my writing and a voice says, “That sentence there is dog shit, but you know that,” I can take it out or rework it the way I need to.
Shopping used to be an ordeal for me. I’d have a list, of course, but sometimes I would stand in the same place for several minutes, trying to figure out if it’s better to get name brand or healthier or local or if I was getting ripped off or if this kind of toothpaste is bad for kids or if the protein powder I want has lead in it, or you know what? Fuck it, I’m not buying anything except eggs and milk today.
Editing also triggered overwhelm for me. It put me in the mindset of cost/benefit, and that was never comfortable for me, which is why I’ve historically made Ryder do it in all other facets of life. I’m the idea person. I’m the creative one. I’m the fun one. I’m the one standing in the flour aisle for 45 minutes wondering which gluten free flour blend to order and what the fuck palm sugar is and is stevia allergy an actual thing or was that just a one-off?
The editor side of me said it’s okay to publish this now, but that tinyletter on Racial Healing Circles is definitely in need of some more work. Thank you editor side of me. Where the hell have you been all my life?