Editing a Year

“Good writing is editing.” I know this is true. There are many thoughts that can be expressed more simply and many more that don’t need to be expressed. Strunk and White’s Elements of Style is an arsenal in the endeavor of editing, so too is Zinser’s On Writing Well. Both stress the elimination of cruft . Anyone who has studied writing will eventually have heard of the importance of editing enough that they will at some point have the thought, “Perhaps the best way to produce good editing, and therefore good writing is to refrain from writing at all.” Restraint is perhaps the most reliable way to prevent odious writing.

The other option is to overproduce. Fill the vats with an excess of ripe words, and then at certain points skim from the top only the most refined and expertly distilled bottles of finely crafted writing. After all if you don’t get your 10,000 hours in you will never be a true master. This comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s Book Outliers which I haven’t yet read.

There are those who fall into both camps. I have fallen into both camps at different points in my life and I have found that at times both silence and cacophony can produce writing that to me is both clarifying and beautiful.

Writing is also a part of how I process my year and as I come to a year that started with me writing more frequentlyRemember when 2022 was the year of the blog? and ended with a distinct lack of writing I’m left with the question how do you edit a year? It’s an easier question to answer when I have a lot of material to work with. Then its a question of linking and arranging until I have a neat summary of everything produced, written, and accomplished. When I haven’t written, have barely journaled, I have done a form of editing already — an editing by restraint — but the final result is still unfinished.

Perhaps in actuality the editing of a glut of materials would be just as difficult, but writing after a silence requires a cultivated pause - a silence before speaking. What if the sound that breaks the silence isn’t beautiful, isn’t clarifying and only adds to the noise within? These are the fears that rise as I edit my year and update the events that happened, the miles I ran, and the books I read in the notes I keep for myself. This is the fear that asks, “Are these thoughts worth writing, worth sharing?”

Earlier, as I was writing this, I said that I have produced writing “that to me is both clarifying and beautiful”. That “to me” matters because if the writing helps me to understand, helps me to clarify, helps me to appreciate, then it has found a home in the first audience that matters.

If good writing is good editing, good editing like good writing should be done first for yourself. To edit a year, begin by making sense of it for yourself.

Other things to read

  • 2022 - The year of the blog?
    2022 the year we hope the pandemic finally comes to an end, a year of new hope, of midterm elections (what already?), a year of new jobs…
  • Hypertext Writing
    Every medium has its strengths. There are considerable strengths inherent to a digital, web-based, way of thinking -- first and foremost is the sheer amount of interactivity and connections you can make.
  • Ink
    A poem by D.S. Chapman


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