My writing cycle: write, procrastinate, and edit

I hate editing.

I am going to be upfront and honest about that. I hate re-revisiting my work and I hate the long and tedious process of editing. I know it is important, but I hate doing it. I also know that I am in the majority of the writing community. We know that all first drafts, regardless of the talent of the author, are in dire need of revision. We also know that it is only through revisions and edits that we improve our skill set and hone our linguistic gifts. Writer’s aren’t stupid enough or prideful enough to believe that we are above editing- a lot of us just hate doing it.

I am an editing procrastinator.

Writing anything from a single stanza poem to a 20+ page essay has always been the easy part for me. Often, I could get it all out in 1 or 2 sittings. When it comes to editing my work. it almost never gets done. My shameful secret that I am sure all my professors know, is that I never proof-read my essays. I would put off the editing part for so long that the due date would come before I bothered to look over my piece beyond the most basic of scans. When I am just writing for grade, or writing for myself the procrastination hasn’t mattered. Professors know we are writing under a timeline, and my personal writing has no due date. Now, however I have run into a wall: public presentation of my work.

I was invited to share my writing. Now I have to edit.

My alma marter has honored me with an invitation to participate in a writer’s showcase on the 15th of October. Needless to say, but I am flattered by this acknowledgement of my work, and hope to rise to the occasion. I accepted the invitation over Labor Day weekend and selected the pieces I would share by the end of the following week. I have had over a month to prepare the prose piece and poem I would be sharing, but in true procrastinating fashion, I have just started the process. I have to practically re-write and rehearse these pieces for an oral presentation and I am woefully unprepared. The worst part is, it’s my own fault.

Where do I even begin?

The rough draft is complete, but find myself stuck on the revising and editing portion of the process. I decided to print out physical copies of the pieces to edit free-style; this decision somehow made the whole thing more overwhelming. Now, my marked up copies are so filled with notes and edits that they are hard to read. I hardly know if I should edit the existing documents or start a new copy on a blank document. Once the big edits are made, should I seek someone out to read through it and start the process again? How many times should I do this in the next week? When do we start to worry about formatting and grammar? Does formatting and typos even matter when we are reading the pieces aloud? All of these questions are start disturbing moments of rest as I try to remember the writing process as I taught it to a 10th grade English class during my student teaching days.

When is a piece of writing considered “done”?

As students were are always told that we are never done editing, but when we start publishing work we are given deadlines to “complete” our revisions. When I published a piece of prose earlier this year I went through 3 rounds of edits (1 personal, 1 peer, and 1 official) before the piece was printed, and I still want to make changes when I read the final version. Maybe the uncertainty about when edits are “done” is why I hate editing so much. No matter how much I revise and refine, there is still that lingering hint of imperfection and incompleteness that mocks me. Without a clear indicator that a piece is finished the perfectionist in me is bound to either edit for eternity, or leave it unread and untouched for fear of entering the endless editing period.

Write, procrastinate, and edit

I am currently in the final stage of my writing cycle. I wrote these pieces a few years ago and left them to sit until my invitation to read. I have procrastinated editing these pieces for a month, and let that anxiety stew and ferment. Now, I have pulled out my pen and set to work. I have a clear deadline to finish these pieces and my hard work will be put to the test. Next week on Tuesday that 15th of October I will stand in front of a room full of people, and read my work aloud.




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