Why We Fear Editing: Heart vs Brain

Editing is one of the hardest parts of writing and I think it’s hard for non-writers to relate to. You avoid it until you’re mentally ready to accept that it may take weeks before finishing even 1 page. Maybe not even a perfect page, but one you’re strongly content with.

You write and scribble drafts out of passion, with confidence.
You edit those drafts out of fear of the unknown, with extreme criticism.

Your heart spills out while your callous brain cleans it up. The rest of your body shakes in suspense fearing the heart’s words embarrass the brain; perhaps the brain will erase all the emotion your vulnerable heart gave.

The poem you thought was a winner may now read as a bland lifeless rant after being away from it. It might be possible to save it, but it also might not be worth it. If there are key phrases that were good you might reshape it. I’ve often surprised myself turning a cliché rant into a new poem on a completely different subject.

But more commonly – my brain reads and feels no connection, does not even recognize who wrote the words. Letting my mind take over in a cold detached mind frame allows the editing to piece together my best works.

Drafts I thought were more worthless tidbits and lost phrases end up tragically beautiful… with the emotion still present in a less “ranting” tone.

I’ve learned it’s best to take months or years away from drafts – let my brain become callous to what my heart threw on the page.

I remind myself that it’s ok to let the common sense, rules, grammar, etc take over to perfect the lost emotions running in circles. It’s ok to be nervous and surprised in the end – either in a good or bad way.

And it’s ok to slowly fall in love with editing as part of the overall process…. And maybe to admit it.

Because once you start finding yourself as a writer – it means you’ve found the balance of welcoming that cooperation between heart and brain.


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