Editing Outloud

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Music stand with papers on it

Music Stand by blmurch http://www.flickr.com/photos/blmurch/ / CC BY 2.0

Every time I attempt to practice reading aloud for the January public reading, I end up silently editing the piece instead. Wherever I stumble over a word or pause too long for breath, I see mistakes that need fixing, not a writer who needs to rehearsing.

A long time ago, I heard or read the story of a poet who had recently sold a poem to Magazine X. One night Poet goes to a party and just happens to meet the editor of Magazine X. Poet is so excited when Editor mentions that he has a pre-press version with him and is reviewing it for final approval. Against his better judgement, Editor shows Poet the page with his poem. Poet then spends all night fixing and revising the poem. The next morning Poet proudly shows Editor the completely marked up final, pre-press copy. The poem did not appear in Magazine X. Ever.

I read that as a cautionary tale of never becoming a poet, but I suppose it could also be interpreted to say that one never feels like their work is finished.

So, do published authors ever want to pull out the editing pen when they’re at their own readings?

Or is this merely another procrastination tool in my arsenal so I don’t have to face the fact that I will, eventually, have to read in front of people?

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One thought on “Editing Outloud

  1. Emily

    There’s an adage amongst grad students, which is oft repeated, especially the longer one has been a grad student. I think I’ve shared it with you: It is better to be done than perfect.

    For papers, theses and dissertations, this is because there is always one more source out there, one more angle to consider… For your purposes, though, I imagine it is more that you will always be able to find a better way to say something. Once you start editing, you can’t always stop. I believe that there are stories of authors who will edit their published books. It is in you to do so. Give yourself permission to stop, and accept the narrative at some point as being done enough.

    And, love, remember, you are a published author.

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