In my relatively short writing career the key necessity of editing has been indelibly impressed on my mind. I find it’s so easy to get carried away in the euphoria of creating a new piece that I rush to publish long before it’s ready for public consumption, only to discover glaring mistakes, embarrassing omissions, or just plain clumsiness and insensitive wording. I witnessed this phenomenon, too frequently, in other aspiring writers during the period when I posted work to the ‘Triond’ website. To be brutally honest, I reckon my grandchildren could produce better pieces than much of the garbage I came across there !
Good writers painstakingly and drastically edit their work – often consuming more time in doing so, than in laying out their original ideas. They comb over a document/screen again & again, searching for improvement, for clarity, for that elusive phrase. This business of communication certainly requires discipline – a special attention to detail, accurate spelling, sound punctuation, finding that suitable word, correcting the propensity to verbal diarrhoea, and on …
A few years back I wrote a poem entitled, “The Poet”, attempting to capture this editorial element of writing:
Embryonic notion begets
as thoughts and emotions
tumble out in free-fall
rambling ‘cross mental screen
like spider’s silky thread.
So work begins
of engineering words to fit,
as firmly embedded nails
hammered into place.
Finely honed and
precisely fashioned parts.
Finding that exact nuance
and perfect imagery
turning over every phrase
experimenting with new style
pushing through tormenting pangs
of self-doubt and dissatisfaction
Pressing through Venetian-like
waterways of agony
be-numbing brain cells,
‘til birthing a living expression
with exultant exclamation:
“It’s a poem”
As Communicator Par-excellence, the Divine Spirit intends my life to be part of the rich tapestry of His communication, bearing witness to His creative and redemptive genius – a tapestry which includes natural creation, human history (particularly that of the Jewish people), Holy Scriptures (specifically the life & ministry of Jesus Christ), and the Church Militant (the living Body of Christ on the earth today).
St Paul writes to a church that he founded: “You are our letter … known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ … ” indicating that followers of Jesus are a visible expression of God – of His grace, love, truth, holiness, justice – and sent by Him within an estranged world with a vital message of reconciliation.
For this reason God is patiently committed to editing my life – adding what is necessary, and removing what is superfluous – through a process theologically known as ‘sanctification’. How often have I experienced the divine eraser, rubbing out a potentially fatal character flaw, or the Spirit’s quill inserting a fresh understanding with a living word – fully focused on enabling me to be more Christ-like. There are no short-cuts to this process, which carries on incessantly, often in the background, in my sub-consciousness – yet, nevertheless, is a thorough and a fruitful operation of God within me.
Many years ago I came across a simple, though profound, piece of poetry which carries a similar idea. It’s entitled “The Gospel According To You”. I believe there are various versions, but this one, attributed to Arthur McPhee, encapsulates the message very well:
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John
Are read by more than a few,
But the one that is most read and commented on
Is the gospel according to you.
You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day
By the things that you do and the words that you say,
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true,
Say, what is the gospel according to you ?
“Merciful Father, as I turn to You again and again, may transforming grace saturate my life, so that I may reflect something of the awesome glory of Jesus Christ, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bringer of freedom, and may those around me be influenced to follow You, by what they see and hear. AMEN”