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  • Rules of Civility: A Novel
    Rules of Civility: A Novel
  • Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
    Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life
  • The Male Brain: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think
    The Male Brain: A Breakthrough Understanding of How Men and Boys Think
  • Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy
    Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy

Words I Just Finished Reading

The Kitchen House
The Atomic Weight of Love
We're All Damaged
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks & Win Your Inner Creative Battles
Wishful Drinking
News of the World
The Forgotten Garden
Out of My Mind
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
Delicious!
There Is No Good Card for This: What To Say and Do When Life Is Scary, Awful, and Unfair to People You Love
My Not So Perfect Life
Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters
Overseas
Moranifesto
Killing Reagan: The Violent Assault That Changed a Presidency
The Lost Wife
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church
Anna and the French Kiss
Little Bee


Julie's favorite books »

Wednesday
Jul122017

Editing Recommended

I’m back, friends.  It’s been a while since I’ve written because I’ve been incapable of editing.  

As many of you may know, I’m a fan of emotional expression.  I think that those feelings and thoughts pushing around in the gray matter are worthy of a passing nod of acknowledgement (and BOY, do I have feelings to acknowledge).  But as the boys are getting older, I’ve found myself saying to them: “Not every thought in your head requires expression.”  This is typically presented after one of them has expressed some dickhead opinion about his brother’s comings and goings.  I’m beginning to learn the value of holding back, even just the tiniest bit.  Not every thought or feeling needs to be translated to speech.  Some of these thoughts and feelings are just passing through; a nod and a wave are entirely sufficient.  And because I’m a book nerd, I’ve begun to think of this process as an edit.  Hand me my red felt-tip pen. 

So I haven’t written lately because I’ve been incapable of performing said editing.  It’s been a strange summer, beginning with Mando’s trip to Italy.  I did well for the first five days (look at me just managing everything and being so impressive, everyone!) and then I took a nosedive off the emotional cliff.  Editing was left above on the ledge, abandoned while I sailed down into the water.  I missed my person; I needed to tell everyone about the spectacular unfairness of it all.  I reverted to the days of desperate social interaction, when the kids were tiny and my casual adult conversations were tinged with a slight hysteria: Oh, HI, no one slept last night and I’m buying these eighteen boxes of macaroni and cheese because it’s pretty much all my child eats and I broke off a wooden spoon in the Cuisinart trying to make pureed cauliflower to hide in the macaroni and isn’t that funny and would you like to hang out with me on your break, Target cashier?  You look nice in red. 

So that would be an example of being unable to edit (a completely fictitious example).  It’s too many words, offering too much information; it’s the right words in the wrong context; it’s the unspoken words that should’ve been uttered, even if they were awkward.  The best words are the considered words, the words subjected to gentle scrutiny.  When life is too much, the first thing to go is my ability to edit.  Editing requires space and honesty and healthy detachment: does this thought require expression?  Does that word fit?  Am I being fair or indulgent?  Am I saying something that’s true, or is it only true in this moment because I can’t get enough distance?  Our words matter.  It's the parable of the two wolves warring inside of us: the one that wins is the one you feed.  

I’ve started reading the acknowledgements in the back of the books I read.  And in every one, without fail, there’s a nod to the editor who made the story sharper or cleaner or better.  Writers need editors.

In my life, I’m not the writer, but the editor.  I’m presented, every day, with the story: the events, the thoughts, the people, so many of which are so far removed from my control.  But I can edit.  I can trim and consider and excise the superfluous words.  I can take a risk, or make a change, or say yes to something new.  I can look back, say, to that time when Mando was in Italy and admit that perhaps I was just the teensiest bit overemotional at times (tell him this and I will straight up murder you).  I can be brave and open, accepting my condition as a woefully imperfect human.  I can be immersed in the story, but I can use the editor’s tools to shape its trajectory, to shape my trajectory.  More grace, less nonsense; more focus, less waste; more freedom, less obligation.  More joy.

The good editor possesses that magic mix of wisdom and humility, and it’s always possible that even the most careful considerations may later require revision or even reversal.  But if all love begins with the act of paying attention (as my wisest girl crush says), then the edits are never wasted. 

So hand me my red felt-tip pen, if you please.