She is finishing up her fifth year at college. It’s been a rough ride all the way, and this summer (which is on top of the full five years and a few other summers, too) is hopefully the semester she graduates. But those details are not the point of this post.
What is the point is the lesson I’m learning about editing, and also about my communication mistakes.
I am very close with my children, all adults now. I am very close with all my family members and pretty much all of my friends, too–and there are a lot of all the above. Relationships, then, are huge in my life. For most of us, relationships are a key learning ground for communication.
Now, I’m a writer, and I’m on the topic of business and marketing. How am I to make the leap from communicating (often loudly, ranging from passionately or boisterously to angrily or insensitively) with my big ol’ group of family and friends to a business lesson?
Easy: thought-word-deed. That IS communication.
Just because I don’t always fly off the handle in writing to my relations (though, that can happen, too!) maybe I think negative thoughts and it comes through in my actions. And just because I don’t treat my business clients like family and tell them something unkind without checking myself first, maybe my attitude comes through in my writing, or in a decision I make which is uncharacteristic.
I don’t want any of this to happen, but it does. When I examine my thoughts, words (verbal or written) and deeds, I fall short of where I’d like to be, a lot of the time. And I happen to make a living with words. I’m always practicing them. So it’s extra painful when I don’t get them right. But then I remember.
There are erasers.
At home we have a 10 year old PC (we keep our cars till they die too; we are so sentimental). It’s mostly mine. The backspace key is broken on what is the second keyboard. Was the same way with its predecessor. backbackback, I am always erasing away.
I propose to us all that a good time to edit anything (that needs it), is anytime, with the three best times being before, during and after.
- At any time, we can question our communication approach. “Is what I am about to say or do in the best interest of me or anyone?” Before is the hardest. It’s why I am interacting a bit less with my daughter these days. I’ve been bad at holding back, before.
- “I might be making a mistake here. Let me start over.” During is what breaks my backspace keys. I was practicing during, with my daughter, but it wasn’t being received too well. I need to keep practicing.
- “I don’t like how that turned out.” or “Things have changed. I’d like a do-over.” or “I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant.” After is the most common. Why not after? Use it for everything. I use it all the time.
For blog posts, web pages, emails… It’s okay. We’ve all heard how famous manuscripts were revised many times in the publishing process. Great novels are a before-during-after example. Edits are a gift from the heavens and we need to embrace their constant availability to us.
Perhaps the biggest, yet most hidden, gift is that knowing this, you can stop stalling. Because you can do your thing, to your best ability, right now. Then leave it alone, learn more, get better, and one day come back and improve your work if you feel justified.
Both my daughter and I have used after-edits to correct our communications throughout our entire relationship. Which is one reason why she is so precious in my life: she stays on the key learning ground with me more than anyone.
Like I said, it will all be fine.