Which matters more – writing or editing? This is a big ‘chicken and egg’ question.
Writing is – hopefully – when our imaginations take flight and our fingers skim the keyboard without stopping. Our feet might grow numb with cold and our stomach might growl, but we have to keep going because the narrative, the characters and the scene unfold for us and we have to sketch it out quickly, before the spell is broken or the doorbell rings.
Editing is when we take that flight of fancy and read a book as a reader would. A reader who has neither seen nor felt the impulse of creation, nor the energy that has been expended, but who wants – is positively yearning – to read a good book and be taken out of herself into a place where she can dream of different, live the lives of the characters, imagine the scene, believe in the story web that unfolds. Editing corrects the text so that the intrusion of (outside) reality is minimal, allowing the reader to believe.
These two functions are, in some ways, not so different, even although the first asks us to fly, and the second invites us to examine every detail of our manuscript with the minute attention of a forensic pathologist examining tissue samples under a microscope…. Both tasks are intended to make the writing look smooth and effortless, so that the dear reader can relax and enjoy.
And which is most important? It depends of your point of view. Both are about creativity, but while one is close focus, the other looks in broad sweeps at the wider picture. Without the editing, the broader picture could not be supported, and without the wider aspect, the editing would be pretty mind-numbing. It’s like asking, ‘is big better than small?’ We need both, to give either aspect meaning, so both are essential and equally important.
Thank you so much for reading.