…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Sometimes I ask for an edit, but it’s not what I really mean. When my drafts are to put down my thoughts as a starting point to help me think through the issues better, what I really ought to ask for is feedback. I don’t want people to be proofreading for typos and grammar or optimizing wording when what the writing calls for is a complete overhaul. What I really want is some feedback at the level of synthesizing ideas, e.g., that there seems to be a dominant idea which is being obscured by another tangential idea, so I should decide what the paper should be about, or figure out a way to have one support the other.
I get equally nervous when someone asks me to edit. Am I proofreading it for proper punctuation, or is it OK for me to provide feedback that might require them to essentially rewrite portions of the text?
The later would be preferable if the goal is to improve the writing as a whole, but we fear destruction…(or deadlines that are too close for anything other than a spell check).
“Books are not written—they’re rewritten.” ~Michael Crichton
Because we get invested in what we already wrote (even though we wrote it using a word processor and it is easier to move whole paragraphs around, or keep the prose we like in a separate file for later), one solution I’ve suggested and continue to use for myself is to start the writing process by not writing, especially at the computer. I advocate starting by a conversation, asking the writer to describe what ideas the readers should come away with, then jot down with a pencil, key ideas that got presented on pieces of paper that can then be organized by groups. This way, we can rewrite our papers, trying out different progression of ideas, without having typed anything.
“Good writing is essentially rewriting” ~Roald Dahl
Photo: Artwork on the walls of Orvieto, Italy