wrapping up the writing process: editing


When I’ve given myself freedom in the drafting stage to simply write without censoring or judging the words flowing out, editing is my favorite stage in the writing process, especially when it comes to poetry.

It wasn’t always this way, though. I used to think I didn’t like editing, so I would try to craft a near-perfect first draft. The irony is that in order to do that, I was inviting editing into my drafting stage, which slowed my writing process considerably. In fact, it ended up being one of the main causes of my writers block. I would freeze up when it came time to write because I was judging my work before it even got out on the page!

One of my favorite ways to differentiate between prose and poetry is credited to Samuel Taylor Coleridge who defined prose as words in their best order and poetry as the best words in their best order.

The editing step is when I can rearrange the words on the page into the best words in their best order. I love that process. Sometimes it takes multiple editing sessions for one poem to be completed. Sometimes a poem is almost perfect in its first-draft form. The key is not to worry about how much editing will be necessary until after the full draft is on the page and you move on to the editing stage.

{today’s exercise}

Take the three poems you drafted yesterday and begin to edit them today. Focus on putting the best words in their best order. You may end up completely rewriting whole sections, of you may simply replace a word here or there. Do what you need to do to make the poems beautiful.

Keep versions of your drafts — don’t delete all your changes. You never know when you might want to decide to go back to the way you phrased something before. Or maybe there’s a particular line that doesn’t fit this poem, but could be the spark for a poem you write in the future (in that case, add the line to your topic-idea list!).

{my process & my poems}

Here are the finished poems, after a couple of editing sessions. You can compare them to the first drafts that [I shared yesterday][2]. Note how I added a whole new stanza to the first poem, corrected punctuation in the second, and refined the third by removing a rearranging a few lines. I didn't do this on purpose; this is a true glimpse into my writing process.

Topic: How can the rain be both refreshing and destructive?

I watch the rain run down the window glass,
down the driveway,
down the street.

It washes away the dust of summer,
makes the sidewalk shimmer,
and the asphalt shine.

It obscures the view through the window,
makes the cement slippery,
and the roads flood.

I watch the rain.
How can it be so refreshing
and yet so destructive?

Topic: chores

Necessary evils?
Whether hard labor or mundane tasks,
chores will always be there.
Necessary, yes, but must they be seen as evil?

Why not chose to enjoy them?

Back breaking hard labor
can become a workout —
and you don’t have to pay for a gym membership.

Mundane, mindless tasks
give you an opportunity to think —
freedom to daydream without worrying that you’re wasting time.

Topic: Bare feet in the grass

When was the last time
your bare feet felt the grass?

Was it when you were a child?
Or have you allowed yourself
this childlike pleasure
recently?

I did just yesterday.
Watering the flowers, weeds tickling my legs.

There’s a reason children like to take their shoes off
and run in the grass.

Do you remember?
Why not try it again?

You might like it as much today
as you did
last time.