Once you’ve written your first draft (or after your tenth revision), it is time to go through the painful process of editing your writing. Every writer has been down this road. You look over your work, or send it out to beta readers and read over their feedback, you spend countless hours going over your work, adding, cutting, and altering. But why is it so painful? Why do so many people hate editing and revising? I think a large part of the problem is resistance to change.
My mom wrote her dissertation on resistance to change, and that has made the topic one I am constantly on the lookout for. We all resist change to some extent or another, but I am going to focus on the writing aspect. As writers, we spend many hours writing and it is no wonder that we become attached to our words. We struggle to cut away something that we thought was epic when we wrote it or we have trouble grasping why we have to add in information and how much we need to add in for our readers to understand what we are trying to get across. Removing (or at least lessening) this resistance to change will make the process of editing and revising your novel a lot easier, and dare I say… fun?
Letting go is one of the best things we can do for our writing (and our lives in general). Acceptance to change is important for everyone because all of life is change. You cannot stay the same throughout your entire life, and your life will not stay the same for you. No matter how much you resist change, it will happen anyway.
Allow me to digress for a moment and use some examples from science. Our bodies are made up of cells, and these cells are made up of chemicals. Throughout every day of our lives, millions of chemical reactions occur inside these and between these cells. Each of these chemical reactions changes the molecules involved. Now, if you were to stop these changes from occurring, life would stop. As you can see, change is necessary at a molecular level. In order to learn anything in life, your brain has to change. The neurons that make up your brain are constantly undergoing changes, creating new connections, myelinating themselves, and being destroyed.
If you would prefer a non-scientific example, let us look at a larger scale. If you stayed the same throughout your life (biologically impossible, but let’s try to separate from that and focus on your place in life) then your life would be very boring. You do not want to remain in one place all your life, or work the exact same job with the exact same tasks, or only eat the same food over and over again (well, maybe if it’s your favorite).
We resist change because we believe that it will change who we are, or that we will lose ourselves. Does the sky lose itself as it changes in hues and the number, size, and shape of the clouds change? No, the sky is always the sky, just a different one. Do not hold onto who you are now, embrace change and know that it is life itself. Without change, we would be a stationary, unmoving, unfeeling, bleh object. We change every day, but we are always ourselves.
Now, moving past the philosophy and the broad life picture, allow me to relate all of this to your novel. In the same way that we resist change in ourselves and our lives because we believe we will lose ourselves, we (writers) believe that changing our story will destroy our story. It will not. The edits and revisions you make to your story will make it better. Allow your story to grow and evolve into a better version of itself. Do not fear changing your story but embrace the changes and revel in the wonder of how your story becomes different but is still the same story. It is a better version of itself, but it is still itself.
I hope that this post will make changes easier to accept for you and that you will have more fun in your editing and revising process and perhaps in your life as well. At the very least, this post should have made you think a little. Feel free to leave your comments and let me know what you think. I look forward to talking with you.