Editing

Editing is my favorite part of the writing process.

Even as I type, I tighten words and phrases in my head, refusing to commit them to the screen until I’ve determined them to be exactly right. Slicing extraneous clauses, slashing unnecessary words, wielding my imaginary red pen, brutal and unrelenting. 

It’s a skill for which I credit years of outstanding English teachers (South Carolina public schools, for the record), a liberal arts education, and a particularly demanding Furman political thought teacher who gave us a seemingly simple weekly assignment: two pages, double spaced, 10-12 point font, one inch margins all around.

Every week that term, I would smugly write my first draft, discussing the theories of Socrates or Plato or Rousseau, thinking I had written the most perfect, most succinct, most mesmerizing essay ever. And every week, I would finish my draft in about an hour, and it would inevitably be those two requisite pages--plus an extra four or five lines. 

Those four or five lines? They took me about four hours to edit. It was a humbling, frustrating, yet ultimately satisfying life lesson, one that prepared me better than any composition class for writing in the 21st century world of ADD, texting, and 140 character limits.

But when it comes to life beyond the page, I am not as exacting.

I pride myself on being a professional dabbler, a multi-tasker, a modern professional woman with multiple income streams. I still want and think I can have it all. That those same rules I learned 20 years ago don’t apply to my life.

False.

The truth is, since quitting PR and the financial stability of that monthly retainer nearly a year ago, I have done anything BUT edit my life. 

I took on teaching responsibilities at three additional locations in less than year, many at inconvenient times or locations.

I accepted writing assignments simply because they were offered or made me look important, not because they inspired or contributed significant income to my bottom line.

I’ve allowed myself to be distracted--financially and timewise--with too many commitments, too many events and concerts and dinners and people and things that just don’t matter.

I realized last week I spent two hours in the car to teach four classes at three different times and two different locations. 

I only see my parents and sister and my niece--all of them in metro Atlanta--less than once a month.

I was putting my puppy in day care twice a week to leave for a few hours and barely make enough money to cover the expense.

I was spending $200 on Instacart a week (at least) and still eating out two meals a day because I pretended to have no time or energy to cook. 

I was starting my days at 5 a.m. and ending them at 9 p.m., exhausted, scattered, frustrated, depressed, and lonely.

I have a closet full of clothes and an embarrassingly long list of bank charges to “it” restaurants and bars, yet a backyard that needs water mitigation, furniture I desperately want to replace, a piano that needs to be tuned, and a home I’m embarrassed to show to others.

What AM I prioritizing? 

Certainly not my health or my training or my family or my home or my dog or our hard-earned money or the people that matter most to me.

A minor health scare and a bank issue in the past few weeks have helped to crystalize this need for editing in my personal life.

Gone: weeknight bar-hopping, dinners out “just because” it’s a day that ends in “day,” writing shitty content for low pay, teaching classes I don’t enjoy, spending more money than I save, lululemon and Free People and queso binges, and putting everyone and everything but my health and family and financial security first.

Editing is messy. It’s imperfect. It’s harsh. It’s difficult. It’s imprecise. 

But so is life.