Faith, Grace, Writing

The Big Edit

The review part four by With and associates on flickr


I am an editor, but you’ll probably still notice plenty of typos and grammatical errors in my writing.  It’s understood, in the world of publishing, that writers are universally terrible at editing their own work.  When you know what you’re trying to say, very often you don’t notice the impediments to others in understanding what it is that you’re trying to say (if you know what I mean)…  A fresh set of eyes is almost essential in producing a polished piece of writing.

Of course, there is also some conjecture about what a ‘good edit’ involves.  Some writers are very happy with a drastic copy-edit of their work, where the editor cuts and pastes and shifts things around and then either creates transitional passages to improve the flow of the work (or requests that the author do the same).  Other authors are far more territorial; even a word substitution to increase clarity for the reader is met with querulous resistance by the writer.  And editors themselves might disagree about what might be required to balance the need to maintain the ‘voice’ of the author while increasing the readability of his or her work.

A university prof once told me that my writing contained ‘an over-abundance of semi-colons’.  I recounted this once to a boyfriend and his mother, laughingly saying that I still believed that I used the punctuation correctly (if lavishly)… My boyfriend’s mother was an English teacher, and she sourly replied, “Well, if you’re using them abundantly then that suggests that you’re using them incorrectly.”  She never did like me, that one.

Anyway, conventions be damned – I like a good semicolon (as you may have gathered).

But I digress (NB: a good, independent, editor most likely wouldn’t have allowed me that tangent in the first place!)…  As a writer, I don’t need to concern myself too much with the editing end of things; particularly during the initial stage of crafting my story or article, my job is simply to create.  In the drafting stage, everything goes, in the hopes that this will render an inspired (albeit messy) result.  Then, as I work through my thoughts, sift through the words and phrases, and reassemble the paragraphs, I am able to hone these elements into something that more accurately conveys the tone and meaning I originally intended to express.

A good editor can take the most tangled, mangled, outpouring of prose and massage it into something that makes sense.  Careful editing will render the roughest draft more coherent and cohesive; when the prose itself has been written with care, the result can be delightful.

I am a Christian, and my life – like my writing – contains plenty of mistakes.  Sometimes I err even though I know better, but it’s my own life and thus I am blind to some of my faults.  I could choose to be territorial with my mistakes – I could choose to ‘own them with no regrets’ as popular culture sometimes challenges us to do.  But instead, I have given my work – my life – over to my Editor (who is the author and perfecter of Life itself); and he restores meaning and fluidity and harmony to the reading of it.

Without my Editor, my life would remain a rough draft; all the opportunities for enhanced meaning, harmonious expression and perfect prose would be lost.  All my messy mistakes would remain unchanged, disrupting the flow of my story and marring the page of my life.

But my Editor comes in and makes a clean sweep of my work.  He does not ‘track changes’; instead, He erases my mistakes without leaving a trace of them. He makes something new and fresh that is still wholly my own while also uniquely His.  The word that wasn’t quite right; the phrase that didn’t fit properly; the impediments to meaning – all of these stumbling blocks are smoothed over.

I work hard in the telling of my story.  I do my best to write something that is beautiful, inspiring, and honest.  But my Editor is the one who brings true meaning to my work.

The irony of it all is that He uses this blood-red pen to excise my mistakes – and it renders my page a gleaming white.





“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

-1 John 1:9

Life, Relationships, Writing

Say What You Need to Say

write by sarah reid on flickr


Since I launched this blog back in January many of my friends have mentioned their own desire to do the same.  As I’ve encouraged them to follow that instinct and join me in sharing their musings in the blogosphere, many have protested that they wouldn’t know what to write about or that they haven’t got anything worth saying…

Early on in my blog-writing venture, I felt the same way sometimes – in fact, I still do on occasion.  I’ve got a list of ideas that I jot down on the go, so I’ve always got something to choose from (if not time in which to actually sit down and write on any of those topics) – but sometimes inspiration still seems to hover just outside my grasp.

But such is the writing life.  Such it is with any form of creativity.  People say you can’t force it, and ideally nor should you; but the practice of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, or paintbrush to canvas, etc.) has intrinsic value – and its greatest merit, in my opinion, is that it gets you started.  I may not have written anything spectacular or wonderful or awe-inspiring; I might not have always managed to feel like something I’m posting is the very best it can be – but I am attempting to hone my skill; I am working on saying what I need to say just how I want to say it.  And writing something – anything – is better than writing nothing at all, when you are a logophile and a would-be writer.

Of course, I – or any blogger, for that matter – could just write a post on my home computer every few days and save it there without broadcasting my thoughts to my friends and other internet readers, but there are three reasons why I choose to share my posts with a wider audience.

The first reason I blog rather than just write privately is accountability.  By having readers who notice whether or not I’ve posted recently I am motivated to write something on a regular basis (I am aware, for example, that this is the fourth day with no posting from me); I’m conscious of the fact that my kind readers, who are indulgent enough to read my stuff and express appreciation for what I write, would eventually get tired of looking for new posts that seldom seem to appear and stop reading my blog altogether if I should pause for too long.

The second reason I blog is to receive feedback.  When people comment or mention my blog or share a post, I am so (so so so so so SO) encouraged.  The fact that people read my blog at all is hugely encouraging; and when they feel moved to say something about a post I’ve written or invite others to read it, it spurs me on to keep up the practice of posting even when the flow of ideas seems to be ebbing.

The third reason I blog is just to say what I need to say.  About a month into blogging (or thereabouts), I was struggling a bit emotionally and it was distracting me from finding fun and interesting things to write about.  As I was driving to pick my older boys up from school, John Mayer’s song ‘Say What You Need to Say’ was playing, and it seemed to be speaking right to me.  What I needed to do was to process what was bothering me, and for me the best way of doing that (with this particular topic) was to just write it out.  I did that (it was so cathartic) – and of course I posted it, because I have realized that if something is worrying/upsetting/inspiring/exciting/challenging ME, then the chances are that there’s someone out there who can relate.  And it certainly seems to be the case (as a number of friends have mentioned it) that often something I’m feeling compelled to write about is also something that one – or more – of my friends and readers is dealing with or has gone through in the past, and so we can relate to one another through my writing.

Relationship is, to me, the most important thing.  I’ve probably said it before, and I’ll likely say it again (at least if I repeat myself I’m being consistent!); we’re on this earth for relationship.  Relationship with God and relationship with others – these things are paramount.  Having this blog has enhanced my relationship with people; saying what I need to say has turned out to be a way of connecting with others.  No matter what you write about, or how you write it, you stand the risk of alienating people – but it is my hope, and my prayer, that this is seldom the case with my blog.  I don’t expect that my readers will always agree with me, but I hope that I am able to share my heart with grace and in love, so that even those who might be against what I say would remain close and hear my thoughts because of how I say it.

We’re in the technological age, for better or for worse (look for a post on that in the near future!) – why not embrace what that means for writers, and add your own voice to the mix?  If you’ve been thinking of starting a blog, my advice is this:

Do it!  Say what you need to say!


Take out of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all your so called problems
Better put them in quotations

Say what you need to say…

Walkin’ like a one man army
Fightin’ with the shadows in your head
Livin’ out the same old moment
Knowin’ you’d be better off instead
If you could only

Say what you need to say…

Have no fear for givin’ in
Have no fear for givin’ over
You better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than to never to say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shakin’
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closin’
Do it with a heart wide open
A wide heart

Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say
Say what you need to say

Song lyrics by John Clayton Mayer