Prewrite. Draft. Revise. Edit. Publish. These are the five stages of the writing process. Whether or not you intend to publish your work, you want it to be its best expression of your intention.
Wait. That was a big assumption. Do you? Do you want your poems, stories, and essays to be their best possible versions?
It's totally okay if not. I love to pull out a sketchbook, colored pencils, pastels, markers, crayons, and aimlessly draw, allowing impulse and instinct to guide my hand. I value the crappy sketches as much as the decent ones because all fulfill my desired outcome: to feel wonder, joy, stillness in my freed-up intellect. I don't draw to become a better drawer, to hang my drawings on a gallery wall, to compile them into a coffee-table book. And every time I do try to learn to draw better, I get bored; I just don't care enough to invest the necessary attention, energy, time, money to up-level my drawing game. I draw simply to become a better human. And knowing (and accepting) this about myself frees me up even more.
So, back to you. Do you write simply to feel better or to write better? If the former, have at it: write and write and write your heart out. If the latter, you may be motivated to devote two attentive hours to my How to Edit Yourself video.
In this video, I work through four short prose pieces to demonstrate an editor's sensibility, one you can cultivate and apply to your own writing. (This video is the second (self-contained) session of my WRITE TO RIGHT: How to Edit Yourself webinar; the first session covers foundational grammar/usage, information that's not critical for tracking the content of the second session.)
Editing, like critique/feedback, is tricky territory because a work's success may seem subjective, but good writing isn't strictly a matter of opinion. Good writing fulfills objective criteria dictated by grammar and usage, genre, and art itself before it satisfies (or doesn't) our subjective preferences. After we craft and revise a poem, story, or essay so that it meets our intention and the requirements of its genre, we must then interrogate it--word by word by word--so that it puts the art in literary art. Self-editing is where we up-level our writing game.
Self-editing is a necessary practice if we want to present our work for public consumption and ultimately monetize it. Yes, critique groups and mentors can point out any piece's strengths and weaknesses and even identify our global (limiting) habits of seeing and saying, but if an editor's input on our creative writing is so heavy-handed that it qualifies as co-writing, then we haven't fully done our job as writer. And that job--getting better and better at that job--takes attention, energy, time, money. Don't we want to be the one we can reliably count on to bring our literary artworks to their grandest versions?
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
Marj Hahne is a freelance editor and writing teacher, and a 2015 MFA graduate from the Rainier Writing Workshop, with a concentration in poetry. She has performed and taught at over 100 venues around the country, as well as been featured on public radio and television programs. Her poems have appeared in literary journals, anthologies, art exhibits, and dance performances.
YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/2LxHUG2