Here’s the thing: Writing mistakes are bound to happen. In the heat of the moment, in the absolute thrill of the thought, our fingers can’t pen (or type!) fast enough to keep up with the brilliance dancing in our heads. And, trust me, writers can get caught up in the thought’s brilliance, or at least be convinced of its veracity and value. Thus, the finer elements — you know, clarity, perfect word choice, grammatical sense — come later. Well. That’s how it’s supposed to work. Through discipline, habit and the occasional burst of inspiration, writers commit their observations and thoughts and half-formed ideas to paper. (Is it at all strange to you that today’s ‘paper’ need never be touched? A ‘Word™ doc’ looks like paper, right? Ah, virtual worlds, we hardly understand ye…)
So. Through drafting and revision, half-formed thoughts soon become full-blown sentences. Ideas take organizational shape. Brilliance — or at least good sense — pours forth. Through the process a finished product emerges. That’s when the writing meets its match. Because someone is going to read it. Who will be first?
Sometimes, we let our friends (SO CALLED!) read the thing before anyone else lays eyes on it, because, what are friends for if not to tell us that a bit of lettuce lingers between our front teeth, or that those jeans are too small for our oversized backsides, or that our half-baked ideas need some more time in the oven?
Sounds so right, doesn’t it?
See, friends don’t let friends edit their writing. Friends don’t let friends proofread for typos, mechanics errors, or idea development either. Why not? Because as it turns out, friends sometimes bring careful critique and a suggestion or two with them. They think to themselves:
‘Hey! we’re friends — I can speak frankly.’ I can say, ‘You know,’ this still needs a bit of work.’ I can point out, ‘This section doesn’t really GO anywhere.’ I can suggest that the passive voice distances readers from the action.’ I can say, ‘This has such potential — but it’s not quite there yet.’
You would think that friends who are readers would be able to say such things about a piece of writing to their friends, who are writers.
You would be wrong.
Friends don’t let friends edit their writing. Ever. Unless, of course, they want to lose their friends.
I write from personal experience, friends. I tried editing once. Writing may have been critiqued. Flaws may have been identified. A writer’s ego may have been bruised. A friend may have been lost.
Writers, a bit of advice: Check your organization, polish your voices, use good words. Abandon your egos.
Friends, a bit of advice: when someone asks you to edit their writing, don’t just say ‘no.’ Say ‘HELL NO!” Remember, friends don’t let friends edit their writing. They hire an editor for that.