In writing, I have found that the way to improve on anything is in the editing. I think about all the writers through time who had nothing more than a parchment or scroll on which to capture their thoughts. The pressure they must have felt to get it right, the first time. We are so spoiled with the ability to push our fingertip on a little square and see a letter or number appear on a brightly lit screen in front of us. And even more spoiled we are to be able to quickly add, edit or delete letters, words or entire paragraphs.
Editing is crucial to writing, but it’s also important in other areas of our lives. Take our homes and closets for example. You’ve probably read at least one article in a women’s magazine that stressed the importance of editing your closet, or your collections of bric-a-brac around the house. Editing means using a critical eye to assess what’s in front of you and be willing to remove some of what you see. To pare it down and get rid of what’s unnecessary so that the most crucial bits will get more attention.
My problem is once I start editing, it becomes difficult to stop. And it’s not limited to just my closets or my collection of mismatched linens. I find myself wanting to edit the past.
It’s very easy for me to get lost in my own head. To look inward as a way to get clarity on things that have happened before, or are in the midst of happening now. And in doing this, I always end up replaying certain moments or periods of time in which I wish things had been different.
Things I wish I had said differently, or not said at all. Decisions I made that I wish had taken a different turn. Entire periods of time when I felt so disconnected and alone.
Once I begin to dance around the entrance of this particular rabbit hole, it takes no time at all for me to find myself falling deeper and deeper into its seemingly endless darkness.
On the way down, I am reminded of all sorts of different occasions where I said what seemed like the wrong thing, or behaved in what now is so obviously the wrong way, or I didn’t speak up when I wished I had. And because I have a tendency to be very critical of myself, it becomes very easy for me to punish myself for all these past mistakes.
But try as I might, I can’t actually do anything about it. We can’t go back and edit the past. What’s done is done. And all we have is the next moment in which to try again.
Last night my husband and I watched Dead Poets’ Society. He had never seen it—how is that possible? It has such beautiful scenes of fall that it felt like a great movie option for a winter evening date night at home. I had forgotten just how heartbreaking the film is. And while sometimes certain words and phrases become trite or cliche with time, I believe they bear repeating. More than that, they require us to edit our perspective so we can approach the next opportunity with new eyes. And perhaps avoid making the mistakes our future selves will want to edit out.
Like Robin Williams’ character in the film said to his students, “Carpe diem. Sieze the day.”
We think we have all the time in the world. Especially if we are relatively young-ish and somewhat healthy. It isn’t always the case. It is so easy to get sucked into the daily grind. The little workplace dramas and uphill race to success.
But what are you doing in this life? What important things are you really tackling? And by important, I mean things that are true to who you are. Meaningful things that, when repeated, produce true happiness. Sometimes it’s good to get a little wake-up that helps create new point of view. I definitely needed one of those.