A few friends and I were enjoying grad student night discounts at a local bar when the discussion turned to writing (we really are that cool, you should come out with us!). The three of us are all going to be in the same capstone course section next semester and we were trying to figure out which among us was the best at editing. The discussion really only ended up being beneficial for the friend that decided to be the judge so her papers were the ones getting edited, but it brought up an interesting point.
The longer I am out of writing classes, the more I am realizing that editing, and especially writing, is not like riding a bike, it’s use it or lose it. I am a big fan of words and I recognize well-written prose when I read it, but producing it has been a lot harder as of late. I can focus in on passages that are not coherent or wordy or not placed logically when editing other writing, but my usefulness quickly runs out when I can’t come up with a constructive suggestion. I read a book this summer called Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese and it was one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. It was one of those where you didn’t think about metaphors, or how choppy the sentences are, or how there was too much detail, or how this passage really could have benefited from some more character development because it was just so good. Mr. Verghese is not even a career writer, he is a doctor who writes. Someone with that level of writing capability probably never loses their innate talent, but can the rest of us ever hope to achieve that level of writing through the collective efforts of editors and drafts? Maybe you’re born with it, maybe it’s Maybelline…is kind of how I see it. The original thoughts, ideas, and concepts are all the authors, but as the writer it is often so easy to get totally caught up in your own head and your own work and the job of the editor is then to make sure the author’s ideas are communicable to the audience. At any rate, editing is an important, albeit overlooked part of the writing process, because it is the checkpoint that allows you to bridge the gap from your own thoughts to other people…it’s also one of the parts of writing I can’t wait to get back to in the winter term!