“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.” Justice Brandeis
Perhaps it stems from our innate brokenness as human beings, but I believe just about everyone of us strives for perfection in some area of our lives.
For us writers, it’s our words, our writing, we long to create perfectly.
Yet, though the universe entire was created by a perfect God, none of us who live within it is perfect. Therefore, by design and definition, all art is imperfect.
It’s taken me a long, long time to realize this. My pursuit of perfection in writing has robbed me of years of writing. Instead of simply embracing the inherent imperfections, I would simply not write.
If I could not fill the page with pure perfection, I did not bother putting anything on it.
A lot of people think writing is about filling the page. That somehow, through divine intervention or inspiration a perfectly crafted novel, story, poem, or article comes into being.
But, as Justice Brandeis said, “There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”
Rewriting, or editing, is about discovery as much as it is about creation. What we wish to write already exists, we must simply uncover it.
Michelangelo – the artist, not the ninja turtle – said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”
For a writer, editing is like sculpting. Writers have to chip away at their first draft to find the art inside. Of course, sometimes they have to go even deeper and continue to pound away at several subsequent drafts.
It’s not an easy process. In chipping away at a draft, the (re)writer must “kill [his] darlings,” advice that has been attributed to any number of well-known writers of the past 100 years. It’s no fun, but for the sake of uncovering the true art underneath, necessary.
Of course, no amount of rewriting or editing will uncover or create perfection. But, remember, all art is imperfect. The best we can do is chip away, and uncover as much of it as we can with each press of the keyboard or scratch of the pen on paper.
Question: How do you approach editing?