Writing Through Editing

I was 12 years old the first time I saw a profile view of myself.

Standing in my parents’ bathroom with the pull-out mirror, I went to slide it back against the wall and happened to glimpse myself in the stationary mirror mid motion. I stopped, frozen in disbelief, as I looked at my nose from the side. It sounds crazy to say I had never seen my nose before, but that is exactly how I felt in that moment. I’d looked at myself every single day in the mirror. Straight on. I’d had countless pictures snapped, capturing my face at every birthday, vacation and sporting event. Straight on. I had never seen the way my nose stretches out then abruptly slants downward; either genetics or one too many basketballs to the face left a distinct crook in my nose.

“I have a beak!” I cried, completely in disbelief that this haggard nose had lived on my face for all those years without my knowing about it.

I became obsessed. I would look at myself every single day from the side, struck by how unrecognizable I was. I became extremely self conscious about pictures, wanting to make sure I was always facing the camera. This wasn’t the face I was used to seeing and I didn’t like my reflection.

This is what editing feels like to me.

I’ve had several opportunities lately to write and receive feedback- all of which I am extremely grateful for. But this is not my comfort zone. This is not seeing myself, and my writing, from the same angle I am used to. This is not straight on.

Suddenly, I am filled with doubt about my abilities because I can’t UN see what has been shown to me and I also don’t know how to fix it.

I sprinkle commas arbitrarily through sentences. You get a comma, and you get a comma, but you look fine without one.

I use filler words a lot. I really, really, use very many filler words a bit too much and I’m pretty sure that it is quite annoying but I simply can’t stop.

I have a crook in my nose.

So I search, like a mad woman, who knows a bug has flown into her hair.

They are there, hiding somewhere and I can feel them but I can’t grasp hold of what to do.

Do I leave them? Hope they find their way out?

Do I search? Keep searching? Hold still until I find them?

Do I chop off my hair and set it on fire? Just stop writing completely?

I know it will make me better if I can find a way to utilize this new viewpoint. Face my own reflection. Learn from what I can, shake off what I can’t change.

Let someone else help me find the bugs.

But for right now, I just feel like I have a beak.

4 comments

  • That’s actually a very accurate way of thinking about the editing process: it’s the act of looking at your work at a different angle, and not always liking what you see.

    Liked by 1 person

  • I remember having a similar experience of viewing my nose from the side for the first time, though I cannot recall when or why this happened. It’s amazing what a simple change of perspective will do.

    Like

  • Also being a woman endowed with a beak, I do better when I don’t over-focus on it. After all – I think your filler words are fun to read because it’s part of your voice. When I read your blog, I feel just like when I was sitting in the audience listening to you tell your story at Story Story Night. I hear your voice reading it to me. So sure, maybe you have a beak. But as far as I’m concerned, it’s just one amazing part of a great package. Which got you to the editing process in the first place. I’m so happy for you! (clearly I could use an editor . . .)

    Like

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