This is another story about my 2 year old son. Since I spend nearly every non-sleeping (although we do often spend this time together now – don’t get me started) and non-working minute of the day with him, I often find myself thinking about what are the “things” – the skills, the stepping stones, the life lessons – that will get him from where he is now to where I am (as a mostly functioning adult). As an extension of this, I think a lot about why I am the way that I am, and what could have been different about me today if those “things” were different. One of those “things” that I’m so thankful to have learned early and worked with throughout my life as a working professional is the art of editing.
Here’s what dictionary.com defines editing as:
As a normal toddler, I see my son getting frustrated by failure – a few attempts of trying and he gives up and moves on, or asks for help. He’s asking for help more these days. But it took quite a bit of frustration on his part before he understood that it was okay to ask for help. Slowly, day by day, he takes the help and then turns inward to focus. He learns to try different techniques to put his Automoblox together (which by the way are really awesome toys for toddlers – we have the Mini Emergency Response Line). The pride that shows in his face when he holds up a new configuration that works is priceless and pure joy.
As he goes through this process of trial and error, he’s editing in his head. Crossing out things that didn’t work, replacing them with things that do work. He’s learning to put pieces together in fewer steps. Learning to simplify. Learning how to create something new by editing two cars apart and putting them together to create one new, cooler car.
Thinking back on grade school, we didn’t really learn about editing until we started writing papers in English class, probably around 8th or 9th grade. We learned the structure of a paper based on a five paragraph thesis, and learned how to organize one’s thoughts into a point-of-view. Most importantly, we learned how to edit our thoughts to create clarity for the people who would be reading this thesis – our audience. Before learning tactically how to edit, I remember being frustrated with my inability to simply write a paper from start to finish and celebrate the beauty of a single sheet of paper covered in a cohesive message. Someone had to tell me that it’s a rare occurrence. Someone then had to tell me that the things we often hold to standards of perfection and beauty are often results of hundreds or thousands of iterations of adding, shaving, cutting, deleting, and putting back together. As an amateur writer, someone taught me that sometimes the most beautiful pieces of work started in the middle, or the end even, and then worked back to a beginning that brought out the true story.
The process of editing is innately learned through life experience, but becomes intentional as we become intentional with how and what we communicate to others. Some don’t edit enough, others edit too much. I say that editing is a forgotten art because as an adult, most of us don’t think about the act of editing anymore. It’s just something we do. We mentally edit and phrase and rephrase in our heads the ideas we eventually verbalize. We edit our presentations before we present our keynote. We edit our papers, books, blog posts, and articles before publishing them. We edit to simplify and to communicate ideas clearly to others. But what we forget is that most often, we are editing in order to provide clarity to ourselves. There in lies the art that I am thankful for, and I look forward to experiencing my son, peers, and friends feeling those incredible moments of clarity for themselves.