Inspired by this Gabby Bernstein post, I was thinking about how seriously we take our words. Words we use can be heavy, smooth, uplifting, negative, light, breezy, inspiring, dark, spiteful, energising…
I’ve noticed how easy it is for a simple throw-away comment to be taken out of context or an emphasis to be misconstrued.
Even the innocent play on words of the common phrase ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’ nearly landed me with a lawsuit this week! That’s a story for another time, but I concluded that we place a great deal of weight on words.
As Gabrielle says in her video:
There are certain words in our vocabulary that are the highest level energy and the lowest level energy.
Are you watching what you’re saying?
Every word is precious and needs to be considered. We need to be present and conscious in the crafting of our writing to evoke the right feel and the right energy. Because…
Words rebel, destroy, love, delight, change, vilify, shape, nurture, kill.
Words have power.
When you write thousands of words a day like I do, it’s easy to forget the power of each and every word. Yet one tiny slip could mean you are remembered for the wrong reason.
Take this example where I didn’t consciously pay enough attention to a word.
People can hardly think of a foot she has put wrong in those 60 years, a remarkable record of pubic service.
I don’t think the Queen would have been that impressed if she read about the Prime Minister’s praise of her “pubic service”.
We all make typos and we all slip up. We’re only human and it’s okay to make mistakes. There’s a difference, though, between the occasional mistake and sloppiness. This shows how critical proofreading and editing is in everything you write.
And yup, it’s cringey to reread old stuff you’ve written. Or even recent stuff you’ve written. Normally, I want to write, set and forget, don’t you?
But giving your words some extra TLC, combing through just one more time, gifting each word a moment of your time before you send it into the world isn’t as hard as it seems when you have intention.
Eeek! Cringe? Give this a try instead…
It can feel horrible looking at old pieces of writing. I usually cringe to reread what I wrote even a year ago. Yet when it comes to editing other people’s work, I find it easy and enjoyable.
There’s just something about my own work that makes me resist.
Given that, my challenge to you is to delve back into your articles or copy and pull out a piece at random that you haven’t read or looked at for a while.
Here’s what you’re going to do with it:
Read it once for accuracy. Note down what type of mistakes you were making. Typos? Missing words? Punctuation?
Read it again for clarity. In hindsight, was it clear what you were trying to say? Can you add sense anywhere? Are you using language that your audience understands?
Read it one last time for voice. Does it sound like you? Can you improve or update the tone?
Mark all your changes in a different colour if you like. Looking at these different areas separately helps to identify where you can focus and improve. They become more and more subjective. Accuracy, for example, is more cut and dried than the elusive ‘voice’ aspect, but they’re both important. One just takes more practice.
This is what it means to ‘rewrite’. And if you have a different end goal for this newly polished post, that’s ‘repurposing’.
Room to improve
The results of doing this exercise with a random post of my own showed a lot of room to improve. I cut loads of crap! In the main, it was too long, too general and lacked clarity. Frankly, it was boring. And if I’m boring myself… well, you know where that’s going!
If you’ve changed a lot, it’s a good sign.
Self-editing is hard, as I’ve said, but the saving grace is it shows how far your writing has come.
Knowing you aren’t the perfect writer allows you to grow. Angela Scott articulates it perfectly in her article You’re Always Gonna Suck At Writing And Ain’t That Grand.
So yes, editing your own stuff is horrible horrible horrible but it gets easier the more you look at it. You will get more comfortable over time. And pushing yourself into discomfort will expand your comfort zone. (You know, if you’re a sadist, like.)
So pick an article or post and try a rewrite. Comment below on any challenges!
What challenged you about looking at your writing? What did you discover you love about it? What tips do you need?