On Editing

I’m horrible at editing my own work. Or anyone’s work, for that matter. I’m horrible at spelling, my grammar is atrocious, and I don’t take the time to read over my work before I publish it. I love getting the words down and getting them down fast. That is what I live for. The moment the thought – the words – come to mind, travel through my system to the tips of my fingers, and – BOOM! There they are! On the page!

Why am I this way? Why do I treat something so dear to me with such irresponsibility?

Simple answer: because I can.

I love driving down the page in reckless thought – in both violent and considering, thoughtful ways. The first draft, no matter what anyone says, is the most important – the most REAL! It’s a raw expression, like a person, complete with flaws.

In the past year, I have had to look at two manuscripts I created – manuscripts that had been read and edited by others – and I had to change/improve the original. And that is not a BAD thing. Hell, work, like all things in life, evolves and becomes better through change and improvement.

With me, though, on a regular day, I want the words down: type, breathe, spit, light another cigarette, and move on to something else. I am one inpatient person, and some of the elements of my life are very… energetic.

For example last night I was writing a column about building a model motel. The beginning of the piece was somewhat good, with very few flaws in punctuation and spelling. Then, as the fifth paragraph melted into a sixth, the MAJOR flaws started sprouting like embarrassing blackheads on the prose. It’s always the next day, the next night after someone else has read the work, that those shitty blackheads are made visible to me. And, yes, I am grateful to my free-speaking, opinionated editors… without them, I would not be the writer I am today. However, the embarrassing and the terrible and downright humiliating thing about all of it is I KNOW BETTER!

That’s right.

I know I should reread the work, edit, expand, grow, and mature…

Why don’t I?

Maybe it’s simple laziness. Maybe it is excitement.

(I think it is a little of both.)

What I do know is I love what I do. Believe it or not, it is hard work, with little to no pay. The major reward is FINISHING a piece. When that last period is punched on the keyboard, and the sigh of relief knowing you have done something and done it well… well, hell, that beats cashing in a check. For me, anyway.

There will always be mistakes. Learn to live with them. And your mistakes do not define you. They simply show forth the human aspect of you.

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