Do you really need editing? Do you really must know all those difficult and long words? Do you have to sign up for a workshop on world-building? There are so many questions and so little time.
However, at least to the first question the short answer is no, you don’t if you are extremely talented. You don’t if you don’t care about what you’ve written, or how well you’ve conveyed your intended meaning. You don’t also if you know nothing of the basics of grammar and composition. And on and on and on.
The first case has to do with just about one writer in a million. And in such a case, believe me, you either already know you don’t need editing, or someone has already told you. But remember, talent is overrated. And it’s often outclassed by perspiration.
The second case has to do with attitude. After all, just like there are many plumbers who excel at doing a lousy (but costly) job, there are just as many writers who excel a writing lousy prose. I mean, it’s human nature — almost everybody would be glad to be better at something, but only a handful would ultimately put in the work to turn their aspirations into reality. That’s why if you finish what you start you’ve already set yourself apart form many wannabes.
The third case is the most depressing. In fact, if you don’t know even how to write a well-formed sentence, and all your life you’ve used the dictionary as a door stopper, you don’t have to edit anything. You have to write the damn thing from scratch again. Possibly after some serious studying.
However, one thing has to be noted. While editing is an important part of writing, it’s also true that, in general, the more experienced a writer is, the cleaner their first draft will be.
Besides, while avoiding editing altogether is usually an unsound decision — to say the least — incessant editing can be just as deleterious, harmful, ill-advised, bad. (Here, uncertain about which word to use I decided to offer the choice to you my reader — and if this isn’t lazy editing I don’t know what qualifies!)
Anyway, given that editing is the natural byproduct of the desire any serious writer has to come up with great work, I wrote the following snippet as a sort of compass you can use to approach creative writing. Of course it’s written with tongue in cheek, but only up to a point.
Leaning into it
Like everybody else, you too are unique. However, being unique doesn’t necessarily entails being also interesting.
Indeed, to be interesting, as a writer you must forget about what you want to be, and focus instead on what you want your writing to be.
Then, after you’ve toiled to improve your work, and failed, you must forget about the concept of interesting at all, and just write what the hell you want and how you want to.
At this point you might find you still have a long way to go. But at least you’ll now be able to enjoy the process– possibly.
The Experience of flow
Just a note. What I just wrote can seem paradoxical, but the more one strives to get a particular effect, the more they’re going to miss it.
Fact is, writing is like athletics. You have to train a lot. And when you train you can focus on what you want to achieve, you can take apart the single components of the performance you’re after. However, once the show starts, you must forget about the single parts and the single lessons you sat through. You just have to let your mind do what you’ve trained it so hard for. You must perform holistically.
This is the essence of flow. Of being in the zone. Granted, you can’t enter such a blissful state at will. But once you attain it, and then read your production and find it interesting, you can be pretty sure you’ve gotten there. I mean, optimistically speaking 😉