I have a question for all writers out there, one that I’m genuinely curious to hear answers and reasons for: do you prefer writing or editing?
I suspect most writers love writing – otherwise they wouldn’t keep doing it (unless you’re a literary masochist who enjoys torturing yourself, wringing your own neck at the despicable, bothersome chore, yet unable to resist manifesting the pent-up frustrations that would inevitably explode if not adequately divulged – understandably; but I digress).
Many writers I’ve met write daily without fail, unable to sleep at night unless they’ve had their necessary fix in front of their computers or with pen and paper. But interestingly, some absolutely despise the editing process, saying it’s too troublesome to go over what they’ve already written; the magic is lost the second time through.
I asked one of my friends, Seymour Jacklin, a writer and top-notch editor, why he finds it difficult to edit his own original pieces. He answered:
‘Reckon it’s because I’m easily bored by old ideas. Things need to be fresh to be interesting to me – even if they come from own head in the first place. Yesterday’s ideas are old news. I want to know what’s next.‘
Maybe I’m being naïve and foolish, but I have the utmost confidence in my own ideas. I reckon as a writer, to a certain extent or maybe even all the way, I have to believe in my ideas, my stories, my messages I want to convey. Which might explain why my desire to polish and complete my written works to the best of my abilities is so strong.
I personally love editing my own work. In fact, I suspect I enjoy it more than the writing process. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing, creating, penning. It’s a necessary step for getting anywhere. Without a first draft, you have nothing to work with. But don’t forget, it is also still the first draft, and in the words of Ernest Hemingway:
‘The first draft of anything is shit.‘
Which is why I take absolute pleasure in sitting down with a completed first draft, ready to tackle and revise. I rarely take time to revel in the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a first draft because I don’t want to waste a single second. Quickly, I move on to the next step. The driving factor, the motivation for my peculiar enthusiasm for editing is simply this: the more I edit it, the better it’ll be.
For me, the first step of producing a first draft is the hardest and most gruelling. But once that’s done, I see the end in sight, or rather an end has resulted because I generated a beginning. I am encouraged by the fact that each edit takes me closer to the piece I originally envisioned, perhaps even better.
And every time I work my way through a piece, whether deleting entire passages or rearranging the order of whole chapters or transforming 3 long-winded sentences into one concise sentence, I smile and applaud myself for a job well done.