Editing vs Writing

This is re-posted from several years ago. At the time, I was finishing up the edits on, “What Do I Say? The Therapist’s Guide To Answering Client Questions.” It was, and is, a book for graduate students and early career therapists, whether they are counselors, social workers or psychologists. I wrote it with Charlie Waehler as an outcome of a conversation about our teaching, supervising and mentoring experiences.  We realized that no one talks about answering questions and yet, grad students are quite apprehensive about that sort of thing.  So, we wrote it and John Wiley & Sons published it.

the post…

We are now in the process of doing the final edit on “What Do I Say?” Editing is very different from writing.  When I write, I don’t censor my words in the first draft.  I just get them down on paper. Then I go back, and back and back.  I probably revisited each chapter in What Do I Say?  8 or 9 times, revising it, making it smoother, filling in missing material, taking out loads of stuff that sounded goofy as I reread it, but when I wrote it months earlier, I thought it was quite clever.

Editing is a ruthless task.  I get attached to my words and then I have to force myself to be cold.  I have learned to keep the two aspects of writing separate – writing is one part of the job and editing is a different job.  Some writers blend the two tasks together.  For me, writing comes first.  It doesn’t work for me to edit as I write; not the first draft. It is like trying to be free and restrained at the same time. I can’t do it very well. When I write, I try to suspend my judgmental voice (always eager to chime in).  When I edit, I step back and am critical of the words, the ideas, and the requirements of the project.  Some very good ideas get eliminated because they are wrong for the particular piece, just like the fact that there are loads of beautiful clothes in the stores but they don’t all belong on me.

If you have helpful ideas about editing, please let me know.  Everyone wants to be a better editor.

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