Posted by Debbie DeCiantis on Oct 22nd, 2012 | 7 comments
Writing is process: generating ideas; researching; percolating and marinating information through reflection – letting ideas sit and gel in the brain to allow unconscious synthesis and integration- as well as actually putting words on paper or screen and working through the arduous sequence of editing and revising, often repeatedly. So why not write and edit at the same time? Isn’t that a timesaver?
An infographic on the blog http://www.copyblogger.com/creative-rut/ takes a “Mythbusters” approach to claims it says can discourage or misdirect writers. Some advocate a simultaneous edit-as-you-go practice, but successful writers as well as creativity coaches claim the opposite: combined creating and editing blocks the flow of creative ideas by continuously interrupting right-brain activity with the left-brain critic’s objections.
Henriette Anne Klauser’s book Writing on Both Sides of the Brain explains in detail why the reverse is true: creative composition and editing are incompatible processes; any writer trying to do both simultaneously is bound to be frustrated. Writing while catching typos or verb form errors may be doable in a short letter or essay. When the words really need to keep flowing, however, particularly for longer nonfiction, fiction, memoir, or drama, stopping to correct errors prevents the brain from finishing a complex segment of plot, character development, or dialogue sequence.
Any writer who has ever had a wonderful idea but didn’t immediately write it down knows that retrieving it later is often impossible. Stopping to edit can snuff out the creative spark when what’s really needed is fanning that flame. It will cool off on its own when the idea moves out of the brain. Then, edit away.
But don’t be afraid to suspend editing if another creative spark restimulates new composition. Composing should usually take precedence unless an editing deadline requires specified changes. On the other hand, writers who will find any excuse to avoid editing and revision need to let their inner critic put its foot down and tackle a no-holds-barred editing session.
As important as creative composition is, editing is also essential. A real infant is beautiful at birth, but to take his or her place in the world, that child must grow and change. Writers, like parents, can err through attachment to their “baby.” Some revise forever, never allowing their work to try its wings in the world. Others refuse to cut or revise. No writer’s “baby” should be sent out immature and unprepared. Jesus entered the world as an infant who later “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Lk 2:52 NKJV). God demonstrates the process and careful nurture of development in stages, which writers do well to emulate.