Today, we tackle a topic I have HUGE problems with. Editing. Mainly, editing your creative work. Now this might have more of an importance for those artists who are writers, but there might be a thing or two that can be taken away from this by those who work in other fields as well.
I hate editing. I really do. And, if you’ve been a reader of this blog for any amount of time longer than a week, you know I’m telling the truth. My immediate reaction to writing something is, “Done.” I feel I’ve come up with all the ideas for the writing part of it, I’ve put them on paper (or typed them in digitally) and now I’m done. There’s a part of my brain that looks at editing as ‘going back’ and, as you know, I have a strong philosophy of ‘keep moving forward.’ Right now I have two 90,000+ word novellas written that have been that way for years, simply because I can’t bring myself to sit down and edit them.
I understand this is a problem. I understand that the only way to solve this problem is to sit down and edit. Yet, I can’t bring myself to do it. Why? I don’t know.
My good friend Mur Lafferty has a great podcast called I Should Be Writing. A super valuable podcast for writers and wannabe writers. She frequently does feedback shows and I wrote in asking the questions about editing. Specifically, how do I motivate myself to do it when it feels like going back to work on something I’ve already finished?
Her answer? “You haven’t finished.” Editing is part of writing. A big part of it. Her point: it’s not going back because I’m not done with it.
I completely see this point.
So what do I have to do? I have to edit.
The problem is getting my brain to conform to the point! The only way to get my brain to work that way is by actually doing the work no matter how much I don’t want to. This Creative Mondays blog has actually helped me with that. I usually write the blog posts months in advance. Then on Sunday night, I’ll read through the one I want to post and do some editing on it. (As you can tell by the countless spelling errors and autocorrect fails, I don’t edit too carefully, but I do get some editing in.)
Another aspect of editing that is difficult and, I don’t get, is the whole being able to ‘kill your darlings’ mentality. Where even if you like something so much, you have to be willing to edit it out of your story if it is not working. I’ve been lucky to have had success writing in a field, podcasting, where you don’t have to edit out things because there’s no network execs telling you to do so. That said, I would still edit out funny jokes or lines while doing Dr. Floyd.
I did learn a little trick though to make that easier. Something I started doing with Dr. Floyd and I have continued to do with podcasts I’ve written for ever since. If there is a really funny bit that I like from an episode that just isn’t working and I realize I have to cut it out, I’ll copy the part that’s being removed and paste it in a file called SHOWNAME_UNUSED. Like FLOYD_UNUSED. To me, that makes it seem like I’m not getting rid of it, I’m just saving it for later. And there have been times where, while writing a new episode, I will look through that file and, if it fits, pick out something to use in the current episode I’m writing. But even if I wind up never using it, putting in that file makes me feel like I’m not throwing it away. I’m keeping it for later.
If we create we have to be able to edit. We can’t be so precious with our stuff we can’t let some of it go and make it even better. I think it’s an important lesson for artists to learn and some, I’m meaning myself here, need to keep trying to learn it.
How do you handle editing in your creative work? I’m writing form a writer’s point of view but how does editing fork in other fields? I’d love for you to comment and let us know! Have a great week!
I have something to tell you and I’m not sure how you are going to take it. You may want to sit down. No, forget that, you don’t have to sit down. Why? Because it is an ugly truth that just about everybody on the planet knows. It is simply:
People are going to not like what you create.
Now, of course, I’m not talking about everyone on the planet. I’m talking about some people. Some people are going to see what you create and just simply, not like it. And, that’s okay.
You know this, but I think it is good to remind yourself about it now and again so that it stays clear in your head.
Some people are not going to like what you create and that is okay. Some of those people are going to be vocal about not liking what you create (in reviews online, in second hand word of mouth, to your face). And that’s okay, you know, as long as they are polite about it.
I worked on the Radio Adventures of Dr. Floyd for years. When that show ended and I went on to another project, Did This Happen?, I thought for sure the audience from Dr. Floyd would follow me to that project. A few did but the majority did not.
The, in 2013, when I debuted The Adventures of The Thunder Crester, I thought for sure that that would recapture the Dr. Floyd audience. It did not and, in fact, one longtime Dr. Floyd fan sent me an email telling me that not only did he not thing Thunder Crester was funny, he did not like it at all.
I will tell you right now, that email crushed me, as it would anybody. It sucks bad when people don’t like the things you create, but when have to remember when you put your art out there…some people aren’t going to like your stuff…and that’s okay.
After reading this email trashing Thunder Crester I had to remind myself…I like Thunder Crester. I think it’s really funny. I think the cast is amazing and they work together so perfectly. I also had to remind myself…everyone is entitled to their opinion and just because they don’t like something you created that doesn’t make them wrong or a bad person.
I also put it in perspective, just because someone doesn’t like something and is vocal about it doesn’t mean that what you have created isn’t going to be successful. I haven’t watched a single episode of Seinfeld or Friends. They just weren’t my cup of tea. I don’t think Jerry or Jennifer are losing any sleep over the fact that I don’t like their shows.
Cripes, look at the vitriol that came out against the Twilight books. Did that stop the author? Not at all, she loved it all the way to the bank.
So, from time to time, remind yourself, some people are not going to like the things you create. And that’s okay. You just keep on creating it because at the end of the day if you like it, that is all that matters.
What are some of the techniques you use to deal with folks who don’t like your stuff? Let me know in the comments below.
When do you get most of your creative ideas?
I’m sure that for you, as like for me, creativity can strike at any moment. Anywhere, anytime. However, for me, I often find that I get a lot of my creative ideas when I’m doing simple, boring, mundane, completely uncreative tasks. Tasks that are so easy that I don’t have to put much brain power towards. Tasks I can do with my left brain tied behind my back. This can include, laundry, cleaning dishes, vacuuming and exercising.
For me, exercising is a big one. I’ll be running, headphones in, listening to music or podcast and then suddenly realize that I haven’t heard the last three songs or last 5 minutes of the podcast because my mind has been working over some new idea. Most times, I’ll have to stop running and quickly start entering the ideas into my iPhone in order to make sure I don’t lose any of them.
The thing about looking for these moments where you can put your ‘thinking’ brain to rest and just use your creative brain is that it can actually make these ‘mundane’ tasks fun. I can, truthfully, look forward to washing the dishes if I know that while I do it I can let my mind wander on some creative thought or another that I’ve been thinking of. You’re working on your art and getting housework done at the same time! Bonus!
Of course there are times where you’ll want to be one hundred percent focused on your art, that’s great. But don’t let these little moment slip away! Often times you’ll come up with some of your best stuff when you mind is wandering.
I want to point out that, yes, I also come up with a lot of ideas while driving. Mostly on long car trips when the road is stretched out before me. BE CAREFUL! Keep your eyes on the road! You can’t create if you’ve been cracked up in a car wreck!
When do you find you come up with most of your creative ideas? Let me know in the comments below.
The other day I was in my office doing some work when I noticed some gear I still had out from the last video shoot I did. The tripod, boom mic, surge box, videos splitter, etc. I thought to myself, “I should really put this stuff away.”
My brain instantly said, “Yes, but you are shooting another video in just a few days. You want to drag all this stuff back out again?”
I countered my brain saying, “It’s not about cleaning it up and dragging it all out again. It’s about the process.”
Now, I’ll freely admit right here and right now, I don’t know what I meant by that. I assume I meant, getting into the habit of putting stuff away in order to have a clean creative environment. But that phrase, “It’s about the process.” started rattling around in my head and I started applying that thought towards creativity. I simplified the thought and came up with, “Sometimes it is not about the end result, it’s about the process.”
It’s this thought that struck a note with me because of a creative corner I find myself in right now. I have an idea for a creative project that I want to work on, but I find myself without the taler to fully realize it. Basically, I need a puppet built for it and I have the idea of how I want the puppet to look and even have made some sketches of it, but I am not a puppet builder. Sure, I dabbled in it years ago, but I don’t have the skill to pull off the puppet in the manner and quality I need it to be for this project. My friends who are puppet builders are currently working on other projects, so I’m out of luck in that respect. I’ve toyed with going to buy supplies for it and attempting it myself but I talk myself out of it by saying my time would be spent better pursuing other creative ventures.
“Sometimes it’s not about the end result, it’s about the process.” It’s sort of like that saying, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
Thinking about it, I think there are creative projects we as artists should attempt to tackle and simply not care about how the final result will turn out. We should be open to ‘the process’ of getting it done and the things we can learn simply by doing. Yes, the end result of me attempting to make this puppet may be something I never want to show anyone, But I’m more than sure I will learn a few things along the way about the process that I can use in future projects.
I’m sure there are some who would say that ALL creative projects should be looked at this way and I can see their point. Throw out all care for the end result. Trust in your skills and just create. Start a project, no matter how big or small, and work on it with no care about the end result. If it stinks, you can hide it away. If it turns out amazing, show the world. The important thing is seeing what you can learn about your creative process while you are creating it.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go clean up this equipment and then consider working on this puppet idea I have.
Do you take the ‘it’s not about the end result, it’s about the process’ approach to your art? I’d love to hear how this has (or hasn’t) worked for you in the comments below. Let me know and have a great week!