I love writing. I really, really do. But it has never come easy to me. When I was younger, the most difficult thing for me was learning how to control my ideas with language. I didn’t always have the words–or the ability to control the sentence structure. I could create a decent turn of phrase–mainly because they depend on earnestness, and I had plenty of that as a teenager and twenty-something.
I shared with a friend not long ago that the issue I have now is one of connecting. I create fairly decent vignettes, but there’s not always the ligament to connect the muscle to the bone, so to speak.
Both of these are issues of editing. Now, I love to edit other people’s stuff. I’m not bad at it, but man, it’s a tough job when you’re dealing with your own stuff. It’s one thing to tell a stranger or even a friend (I have enough of a jerk in me that I don’t hold much back when I’m editing) that their sentence is too flowery, too flat, too staccato, not staccato enough, whatever, but I am not so good at reminding myself that I use enough dashes that they lose their punch.
The best writing advice I ever received was from Joyce Dyer, my writing prof at Hiram–and it was about editing. She told those of us in a course on teaching writing that we should imagine Jim Belushi’s Samurai from Saturday Night Live–the one whose sword always does irreparable, massive damage to whatever room he found himself in. Edit like Jim Belushi, Joyce told us. Slice it away until you have the paragraph you’ve been trying to write. You may not recognize what you finally produce, but you’ll have what you really truly wanted. Sometimes you have to lose a ton of words to find what are truly your words.
Good advice. Thanks a million.
(That million actually started out as a billion, then I unleashed my inner samurai-editor)
I’m channeling Anne Lamott and Natalie Goldberg here, y’all.