The Spiritual Practice of Editing

18 09 2009

Godspace is running a series on “spiritual practices” in an effort to reclaim the everyday spirituality that can infuse all of our lives, if we will just let it. Guest authors have been writing in on such topics as diverse as unemployment, mothering, drinking Chinese tea, coloring, and driving.  It’s a great exploration of how to, in the words of Eugene Peterson, “take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering.”

One post that particularly caught my eye, by Marcus Goodyear, examines editing as a spiritual discipline, posing the question, “If your life were a manuscript, how much editing do you think it would need?”

Goodyear distinguishes between cursory proofreading and serious editing, and explains Stephen King’s formula that the difference between a first and second draft should be about 10%.   At the end of the article, he concludes with “The more we say no to what is not necessary, the more we can say yes to what is necessary and fruitful.”

I love this.  And although he’s framed the issue into a particular context, the idea is not new.  Like any good spiritual practice, it has simply gained new life.

I often joke with family and friends (right before I tear apart their papers) that I’m a “mean editor.”  But, like many writers, I’m notoriously bad at catching my own errors.  Either I’m so set in my ways that I can’t approach the piece with fresh eyes, or my mind compensates and corrects the mistakes  … but those edits never make it onto the page!

So to me, the spiritual practice of life-editing also necessitates some form of accountability.  In finding an accountability partner, I seek out those who can be fresh, honest, and constructively critical.

After, I’m just a work in progress.