When I was in elementary school, they tried to teach us the importance of editing and drafts in writing. They’d make us write a rough draft, then edit it for a second draft, and then another round of editing to produce our final draft. Pretty typical stuff.

I can’t tell you how much I loathed these exercises. I’m not trying to brag, but I was a good speller and had a pretty decent grasp on grammar and structure. By the time my ideas hit paper, they’re generally fully formed and this was doubly true in these simple school assignments, so my content rarely changed between drafts. I would try to find things to update, but generally my rough, second and final drafts would be essentially identical.

My teachers didn’t like this. They would accuse me of not understanding or doing the exercise improperly. They didn’t believe me that I didn’t have errors in my early drafts. For an embarrassment-avoiding, rule-abiding teacher’s pet like I was, this was mortifying.

So what did Erin do? Erin told lies. I would do the exercise backwards. I’d write my three drafts, then go back over them and purposely put spelling mistakes and grammatical errors in the earlier drafts. This way it would look to my teachers like I had “properly” edited my work. This was the closest to cheating I’ve ever come in my educational endeavours.

I hated this stupid waste of time, energy and notebook paper. I hated cramps in my hand from writing three drafts when one would do. I hated the sideways looks from my classmates when we would trade work for peer editing, and my paper had not a single error while I’m marking up theirs in red ink. I hated how I felt when the teachers told me I was doing it wrong, and I hated the fear they would catch me out for my fake backwards process.

In short, I hated editing, and this is a thing I’ve told myself my whole life.

Yesterday after my writer’s meeting, a few of us were talking about editing versus writing new material. I had been lamenting that I’m writing nothing new as I’m busy editing my novel. The question of if I hated editing came up.

My gut reaction was to say yes, I hate it. However, a split second of reflecting on the time I’ve spent editing my book made me realize I haven’t hated it at all. I’ve enjoyed revisiting my characters and the world I created. I’ve been full of gratitude for the time my alpha readers have given to help me improve the book. I’ve felt pride in fixing the details for consistency, and cutting another 1000 unnecessary words at the same time I’ve expanded things that needed it.

Do I miss writing new things and look forward to moving on? Absolutely. Do I still struggle to recognize places my content might need alterations? Yup. But have I hated editing? Not even a little. It’s long, and sometimes tedious, but every pass through makes the book a little better and gets me a closer to trying to get it published. I love that I’m making that progress, so how can I hate the process that’s getting me there?

I’ve often watched people do things they love, and think it just looks finicky and tiresome. So much time spent on stupid little details no one else cares about, or so I think to myself. I’ve always struggled to put that kind of energy and attention into anything. “You just haven’t found your thing yet,” people tell me if I comment on it. Constant doubter that I am, I didn’t believe them. I thought maybe I’m not wired that way and there is nothing that can make me spend that time and energy for the sake of a 0.01% improvement.

I’m glad to find myself proven wrong. I still don’t write like my teachers taught me – no triple draft of this blog post – but I’m paying attention to those details in my own way, and spending the time.  Past Erin didn’t hate editing, she hated how the exercise of editing in school made her feel and has been carrying that with her all these years. This is one more little anger, one more little fear, that I can let go of thanks to a casual question that I bothered to think about before giving my usual casual answer.  

For all the time I’ve spent navel-gazing and examining my feelings and my motivations, I keep finding more of the lies I’ve told myself to support the defences I’ve built. One more down, unknown legions to go. Much like editing the book, I never know what needs fixing until I revisit a section again, no matter how well I think I know it already. I suspect I’ll finish perfecting the book first.

1 Comment

  1. […] extraneous words, but the the shape of the story itself is unchanged. I’ve written before about my struggles with editing and one of the issues with writing drafts was that after I wrote the first one, I’m done. The […]

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