Virginia was embarrassed about her early draft, apologizing in a way like my mother would after cleaning thoroughly for company’s arrival – once guests were welcomed and had complimented her lovely home, she would say “Oh, it’s such a mess.” This being Virginia’s first time back to writing after a long absence, she sought forgiveness feeling her writing wasn’t good enough.
I consoled her. Two sections, the head and heart of the piece, shown like diamonds in the rough, just needing a little cut and polish. True, other parts needed attention in areas illustrated by red inked signposts, and missing punctuation and indentions constructed stocky, awkward blocks of text. Regardless, those core gems were so fresh and alive they were almost ready for the reader.
As an editor, the cleaner the copy, the heightened my alertness for tiny flaws. When the copy is rough, it’s easier to focus on the content. By its nature, the writing feels in a more creative state, which energizes my right brain’s creativity to explore, to shape, to massage, to play.
Though Virginia saw a big mess, her early draft looked like a generous mound of potential to me. I could examine this rough jewel through the magnifier of coaching and editing to pull flicks of light together, see edges that needed removal, and polish portions that were flawless in color and reflection.
Just like I witness in my work with college students, most adults were never taught the sparkling truth of the first draft, much less to see the beauty in the chaos. We weren’t taught to divide writing into a series of processes as classroom emphasis focused upon grammar and punctuation rules accompanied by timed essay tests. This trained us to try and get the piece completely correct as it was being written.
Combining drafting, revision, editing and polishing into one overwhelming step is like entertaining guests in a room while it’s being painted, carpeted and decorated. Creativity, as well as the enjoyment in the experience, are sacrificed for ill-conceived form.
After our coaching session, Virginia understood her achievement in the draft. The facets started to twinkle, and she treated herself better. Illuminated, she realized her writing was hardly a sorry lump of coal.