Who knew that planking and editing have their similarities?
I didn’t, at least not until I added the former to my exercise regime. After four babies wreaked havoc on my lower lumbar system, I’m always on the lookout for anything to keep my back muscles strong. Enter planking, that horrible exercise invented by the devil himself (after he thought up wall sits). If anyone has been able to do a plank for a full two minutes their very first time, they have my undying respect (as it is, three weeks in, I am up to a minute thirty). Planking is work, it’s grueling, but it’s definitely effective. Within just a few days I noticed a sense of overall physical strength and – bonus! – the arms I inherited from my grandma have never looked better.
If planking was invented by the devil, then I’m pretty sure editing was invented by his archangel. Editing is work, it’s grueling, but it’s definitely effective. The discipline involved is not unlike the focus it takes to keep upright on arms and toes for one hundred twenty seconds. It takes focus. It takes a will of mind that can only be activated by one’s own choosing. Think of those beautiful passages, full of poetic prose, close to your writer’s heart because, damn, who have you ever read that compares the sunrise to the opening of a sunflower with color descriptions that would make Robert Frost cry? During the editing process, its those precious paragraphs that must be excised. Taken out. Highlight, ctrl x. They don’t belong no matter how many minutes you spent finding the terms for differing shades of yellow and orange. This is the kind of discipline editing requires (similar to planking) where focus is paramount for a successful outcome, but it’s absolutely worth the effort. That lean, streamlined, strong manuscript you submit to your publisher is the reward – not to mention the overall strength you’ll acquire as a writer (bonus!).
Editing is one of those things that we don’t necessarily dream about when first committing to a writing career. We envision our name on the best seller list or at the bottom of a book cover. We are excited to get that story out of our heads, give it life, and make it breath for our readers. But few of us realize the discipline involved with the editing process until the first work is done and we begin to cut, paste, and delete. It’s tempting to be generous to ourselves and our cherished prose, but we must enforce strict self-control in order to achieve the strongest possible outcome.
Have a great week kids, write something, and here’s to discipline – on and off the page.