We had just brewed some Saturday morning coffee, so my brain was still in sludge mode.
Sitting there on our back deck, he peered over his coffee mug at me. “You-bought-it,” he said.
“No I didn’t.”
“Remember?” He said, using that sloooow, nursing-home voice. You gave it to me as a gift? Two Christmases ago?”
“Not that wind chime,” I said.
“You said you found it at an art show in Florida.”
“But that wind chime was twice this size. And it had those long, beautiful strips of turquoise stained glass.”
“The stained glass broke off last winter” he said. “It’s been gone a long time.”
Finally awake, I studied our broken wind chime. For the first time since I had swaddled it in my socks and stuffed it in my airport carry-on bag, I finally saw this remaining, plainer part with its clear and deep blue sea glass.
Writers, let’s call this the parable of the wind chime. And let’s remember the parable of the wind chime each time we are (1) So dazzled by our own eloquence that we shush that inner editing voice that cries, “Cut! Cut!” and (2) Already clicking the “send” button, even though we know that our current draft needs one more read and edit.
In business, creative, expository and journalistic writing, less is always more. If you want to find the richest, truest part of your work, be ready to trim all that extra fat.
With the extra parts gone, you can see what’s left and beautiful.
Like the remains of a broken wind chime.
Here are my three favorite editing techniques:
1. Email myself the manuscript. Then read and edit the email. This new format allows me to switch from the role of writer to reader.
2. Read the manuscript out loud. This is invaluable.
3. Save it in an online document storage site like “Dropbox,” then read it on my phone. This miniature view brings me up close and personal with the text.
What are your favorite tips or techniques for editing your own work?