For years my mind would edit without a break — books I was reading, emails, articles and posts I wanted to learn from, advertisements, my writing, captions, memes — I couldn’t help myself.
It was only when my publisher boss mentioned the fact, that I realised I was obsessed. 😥 I had just pointed out an error in the caption on the T-shirt he was wearing on Casual Saturday. 😁
I may have what I once read somewhere about — Obsessive Compulsive Editing Disorder.
As a professional editor I end up spending weeks on a book — editing, rewriting, checking my edits, reading, re-checking — I can’t stop.
Do I want to pull my hair out or bash my head on the keyboard of my computer when I am doing that — I do. But I continue, coming back to my work with new vigour after each round of edits.
What my clients don’t know is that when I offer them 2 edits they practically get 4 to 5 rounds of edits.
Is it the pursuit of perfection? Is it obsession? Is it the obsessive need to give each project my best?
But does perfection exist? I ask that question each time I check, re-check, and sometimes re-edit my edits.
Yet I can’t stop editing. And as I write this I gain confidence that I have been and am doing the right thing.
Because as I read somewhere, “Editing can be like wrestling the devil at times but in the end, good triumphs over evil. Editing is as much as an art form as writing a creative piece of literature. A good editor is a trusted person who instructs the writer to speak plainly and unabashedly informs the writer when they write absolute gibberish.”
— Kilroy J. Oldster
For now I am going to stick to being an obsessive editor.
As Charles Finch puts it unabashedly:
“To me, the single biggest mark of the amateur writer is a sense of hurry. Hurry to finish a manuscript, hurry to edit it, hurry to publish it. It’s definitely possible to write a book in a month, leave it unedited, and watch it go off into the world and be declared a masterpiece.
It happens every fifty years or so. For the rest of us, the single greatest ally we have is time. There’s no page of prose in existence that its author can’t improve after it’s been in a drawer for a week.
The same is true on the macro level — every time I finish a story or a book, I try to put it away and forget it for as long as I can. When I return, its problems are often so obvious and easy to fix that I’m amazed I ever struggled with them.”
Amateur writers are usually desperate to be published. It’s being known to the world as an author that excites them not the process of writing and writing itself. And I understand that feeling — you just want jump in and start your career as a writer.
But I wonder how many self-published novels might have had a chance of finding more readers, if their authors had a bit more patience with them?