Editing and writing are two sides of the same coin. Both manipulate the written word to craft a story, yet they are very different. Writing creates words and stories. Editing takes words already crafted into stories and fine-tunes them. As a matter of fact, the two activities are so different they even use different sides of the brain, with editing being a left-brain, organizational task and writing a right-brained, creative task.
As both a writer and an editor, I sometimes find myself in conflict. When I write, I want the flexibility offered by creativity. As an editor I want to see the perfected story. As the writer, I want to let the words flow. As an editor, I want to spend as much time as necessary to tweak a sentence, paragraph, or scene into that special something which will hook readers and keep them flipping the pages. The writer in me says, ” Get the story out as quickly as possible so I don’t forget anything in my head.” The editor in my says, “You know the rules; use them!”
They seem to be polar opposites, the writer and the editor. Since I am both, I sometimes feel like I’m at war with myself. Yet I know each aspect is necessary. Creativity is every bit as important as perfecting the story. So am I destined to continuous battle every time I sit down to write? Isn’t there a way the two can work together?
Thankfully, there is a point where the editor and the writer merge…but it takes a great deal of practice. It means letting the creativity flow, while recognizing that parts of it will need to change. It means taking the time to learn the rules of grammar and writing style, finding the spots where they have not been used, and correcting them…over and over and over again. Over time, this process internalizes the rules. Instead of being something from outside imposed on your creativity, it flows from inside as a part of the creative process.
It’s a slow process. One that requires many stories crafted and written, as well as many mistakes along the way and the time it takes to find each one and fix it. While the merger will never create a perfect piece of writing with the first draft–editors will always be needed–when the two sides of the writing coin merge, it is a beautiful thing, a goal well worth working towards.