I’ve given birth a number of times now. I wouldn’t say I’m an expert (is it the kind of thing you can become an expert in?) but five births is a solid effort. It’s not the most glamorous thing a woman can do on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but where would we be without it, eh?
I won’t say any more than that because I can see Tim is getting distinctly uncomfortable, thinking that I might go into graphic detail, and I don’t want to shock him, especially when he hasn’t yet had his breakfast.
But it’s like writing. Childbirth that is, not Tim feeling uncomfortable. Writing, to me, is like childbirth. It’s painful and messy, and thankfully at some point the pain stops and the thing flops out and lies there waiting for someone to pick it up and love it. And clean it up. Let’s face it, a newborn baby needs a wash before presenting it to the world.
You wouldn’t push and strain and suck on ice cubes and then go ‘ta-da’ as soon as the baby appears. You want it looking pink and soft and clean and smelling good before others see the beauty that you see the moment it’s born.
It’s the same with writing. Your first thoughts, your first words on the page, your first attempts aren’t what you present to the world. They’re messy, a bit gloopy in places, and urgh … what’s that in your hair? Your first words need air breathed into them – either with a short sharp smack (a bit old-school, but effective nevertheless) or perhaps with a machine to suck out the icky bits; they have a life of their own, but you need to get that life started in this new outside-of-your-head environment.
And so you edit. You re-arrange (metaphors can only go so far, and I’ve pushed mine far enough, so I’ll just focus on writing now 🙂 ), you re-word, you shape and think and move sentences from the beginning of the paragraph to the middle, and then put them into completely different paragraphs. You read and re-read your own work and realise that you don’t have to say things the long way round; sometimes the shorter sentence is the most clear.
You find your own voice – yes, even in a university assignment – and you grow in confidence across the years as you develop that voice. You find your voice through editing; through looking at your work on the page because it’s almost impossible to edit while the words are in your head (imagine trying to wash your baby while she’s in utero).
I prefer to edit. I like the creativity of that process. I can’t shape and re-arrange when the words are in my head (or Tim’s head for that matter, imagine that!) but I can when they’re on the page.
So, editing is a joyous process, a creative process that allows me to play with words and ideas.
Through editing I find my voice.
How/when do you find yours?
Tomorrow’s challenge is ways of thinking about writing to a structure (aka playing the game). That’s going to require some serious thinking!!