Posted by: Judy | March 28, 2017


Candidkay shared a timely post:

My jaw nearly dropped to the floor. NM would correct every letter her sister sent, in red pen, and send it back to her. NM explained she was trying to help her sister write better. Mind you, her sister was no dummy. Oddly enough, her sister stopped writing for a while. I can’t imagine why. (yeah, heavy sarcasm)

After reading Candidkay’s post, I needed the opportunity to examine my perspective on self-editing. My intention is not to contradict her perspective. I understand what she means.

I’ve been spending a lot of time fretting about others and need to turn the inspection inward. As I’ve written this, I feel like it’s full of contradictions. Life is complicated.

I self-edit, all the time. I worry about hurting feelings and being taken in a way I didn’t intend. I know I have a bad habit of not expressing everything in my head but thinking I have, a frequent source of misunderstandings.

As a writer, I self-edit everything I write as I go along. Every person who offers writing advice says, “Don’t do that!” I’ve tried not to, and my stories suffered for it. It’s simply the way I think. As I write, my self-editing notes things I left out. Some of these things turn into important points and even story-changing moments. Sometimes the reason I’m stuck is because I know there’s something wrong with what I just wrote and I have to correct it before I’m able to move on. I’ve never been wrong on that score.

For me as a writer, the problem lies in self-editing before anything even hits the page. I second guess where the story should go. I have to turn off the self-edit in order to allow the story to tell itself. I’ve never had a story go as planned. Ever. It’s quite the balancing act to write without self-editing and yet self-edit as I write. Don’t know if that makes sense to anyone else, but it makes sense to me.

Some self-editing is an important skill to nurture and hone. The self-editing of thinking before speaking. It’s the verbal red pen. There are certain groups of which I’m a part where I’m allowed to cut loose and lose the red pen. There are other groups where I weigh every word that comes out of my mouth or out of my fingers.

As a side note: Changing it to a green pen or a pink pen or a purple pen doesn’t make it better. I actually had a teacher who used a green pen because they didn’t want to leave red marks all over the page. Instead it was green. Mind game might have worked for the teacher, but the result was the same on the receiving end.

Sometimes performance needs to be picked apart in order to improve it, but that isn’t nearly as often as some people think. I was trained to pick things apart, by example. I excelled at tearing myself apart. It’s a difficult habit to break.

When I lived in Thailand, a few people had the courage to tell me I was brutally honest. They liked that they could count on my response not being softened or roundabout. I felt like I’d failed in my efforts to become a kinder, gentler person. They had no idea how hard I’d worked to curb my tongue.

Years later, I don’t know if I’ve managed to gentle my words or not… I’m learning on a personal level. I hope I’ve changed for the better on an interpersonal level.


  1. First off, thanks for the shout-out. Truly. I’m glad what I wrote resonated with you. Second, I’m cursing the teacher who also ruined green, purple–and any other colors in the rainbow for you. You’re right–harsh criticism is just that, regardless of its disguise. And third–I hope you find the kind editor within. I’ve found mine and like her ever so much better than the biyatch who was her predecessor:).

    • Funny you should mention the kind editor. My last counselor told me to fire the mean boss. 🙂 Learning.

  2. Same things happen with photography. This is why I usually don’t allow myself to peak at my progress during the shoot. I just keep shooting having faith that I will get one or two that I like. I’m so glad I am digital now. Couldn’t afford to print them all. 🙂

    • 🙂

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