Few things are as bad as wanting something to be done and over and knowing it’s not. Worse still is the knowledge that your project is miles from conclusion. Writers, in particular, know the anxiety and exasperation of wanting a project finished, but staring in the face of unwanted edits.
I used to hate being edited. Each note, slash, and comment stung of rejection and humiliation. I couldn’t see, then, how editors were helping me clarify my point and bring readers a more robust experience. It felt like criticism. Over time, I learned that rewrites were part of the process and, paraphrasing Anne Lamott (or someone I’ve read about writing), “There are no great writers, just great re-writers.”
Embracing this truth freed my writing (and life). It gave me courage, purpose, and voice, because I knew from the outset that I’d be changing, restructuring, and re-crafting whatever first splashed onto the page. When my heart (and ego) extended hospitality to rewrites, my heart grew larger while my ego grew smaller.
For a year now, I’ve been telling people “I’m almost 40,” which was a ready tonic for the days I was disappointed in my 5K splits. This past Sunday, I finally turned 40. I’m out of “almosts.
Turning 40 delivered parcels of reflection the last few months. I (finally) like who I am (I think). For the first time, I’m comfortable in my own skin and happy about where I am in life. The reason? Rewrites.
I’m simply not the same person I was at 20 or 30 or even 35. Steadily, my life has been revised, sometimes by me, sometimes by others. More importantly, I’ve come to expect edits, which means I anticipate being wrong about much and the corrections that could refine me shouldn’t be avoided.
Life, I’ve found, should be lived in a constant state of rewrites.
The most miserable people I’ve known are those who decided their lives were a finished product. They are the “we’ve never done it this way,” and “I don’t like it if it’s ‘new’” crowd. I once worked alongside a woman who had done the same things in the same way for over 20 years. Her work had become a “just add water,” unsurprising powder that avoided criticism through the power of inertia. Her lack of growth cornered her into a position of attacking anyone who suggested alternatives, regardless to there benefits or ease to her.
I can’t think of a more horrifying prospect than imagining the first draft of me will be the final draft of me. Writers and speakers habitually edit and reconstruct. They rewrite until it’s impossible to redraft anymore. Not until the speech is given or the words printed do they cease their refinement.
Don’t you want your life to be like that? Don’t you want to live the kind of life whose story cannot be told until your death, when you can make no further rewrites? Don’t you want to grow and develop, to venture into new territory, and try your hand at new challenges until it is physically impossible to do so?
That’s a life in rewrite. A life being purified because it’s a life not yet done.