Writing Wisdom...In Pairs (Part 3 of 3) Sane Editing - Avoid the Vortex
“I always listen for what I can leave out.”
— Miles Davis, Musician
Like planning and prioritizing, editing crosses all parts of life. Look no further than the amount of
accessories some people wear. If you indulge in them (rings, belts, hats, bracelets and anything else that
stands out including attention-getting colors), count how many you’re wearing. Would paring some
down produce an improved, sharper look?
As pertains to writing, no one speaks to editing better than William Zinsser: “The secret of good writing
is to strip every sentence to its cleanest components.” ― William Knowlton Zinsser, On Writing Well:
The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction.
So true, but we also have to beware. Editing is a good servant, but overediting is a bad master that can
lead to the wicked vortex. That’s the twilight zone of writing projects. Overediting is a lot like the law of
diminishing returns. You’ve heard it before; the first slice of pizza tastes great and the second as well,
the third is OK, but with the fourth and more, the thrill is gone and you begin to lose your way and your
Here’s a great test: If you haven’t completed your planned goal of creating for a particular writing
session, but you are instead editing the same section over and over and over, you’ve entered the vortex.
You likely are obsessing, procrastinating or both. Stop the insanity! Be cognizant of the difference and
balance between editing and creating. Sane editing can be an exciting yet calm endeavor embodying a
refreshingly clear perspective. Try refraining from editing until after you’ve laid down your draft. When
you do, you may find that you begin to enjoy more productivity and at a less frantic, more predictable