I noticed the following thoughts when I revised or read someone else’s writing. “Who makes such a mistake? How stupid can one be?” Etc. of that kind.
Those thoughts had little to do with the person who wrote the piece I was revising or editing; and neither her background. It also had little to do with the fact whether I liked the person or not. Because I usually did, especially since I started my business, I didn’t have to read (especially beta-read) the work of someone whom I didn’t like. And luckily for me, I still have to meet a writer I detest.
And even in the previous job, where I was an employee, I don’t remember disliking either my colleagues or the customers. In fact, I respected all of the persons who wrote or gave me something written to comment or edit.
And still those thoughts would appear. They would also surface around the good bits of writing, but which could be slightly polished.
As I started noticing those thoughts, I was shocked for having them. I found challenging having such feelings about people and people’s hard work. So I resisted them because a kind person couldn’t have such thoughts, could she?
Then self-defensive thoughts would appear, “If I sat now down to edit my own writing, I would enjoy it more.”
But the fact was that I didn’t enjoy self-editing either. When I self-edited, I caught myself thinking that reading, editing or reviewing someone else’s writing was more comfortable because then I wasn’t “burdened” with the responsibility of the author.
Hm, so what was that all about?
Did I mix my feelings, my state of mind at that time, my stress-levels into the revision process of other people’s writing? Did the quality of my comments depend on whether I had a refreshing cup of espresso in the morning already or not yet, whether I had enough sleep, or whether I had an unresolved argument with someone I cared about?
Or was I judgmental and believed in the cliche that all critiques are bad, mistakingly thinking change suggestions and negative critic being synonyms?
I probably did and was. Perhaps even without realizing that.
Was that a fault?
No. That was just an automatic behavior illustrating that I was not fully engaged in what I was doing.
What could help in such situations? What could help me to become more aware and more present?
To relax and slow down? Yes.
As in October round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game, where I discussed the challenges I faced when my writing was read and edited by someone else, three techniques helped me also here, when I had to provide revising comments to other writers (both creative and technical):
- Instantaneous transformation, developed by award-winning writers, Ariel and Shya Kane, embracing awareness and being in the current moment of my life,
- Kaizen that is taking it all step-by-small-step,
- Gamification that is bringing games and playful method to all the tasks I had to address.
These three techniques again proofed to be a game breaker and the savior in the situation.
The instantaneous transformation helped me to become aware of the task, non-judgmentally see my reactions to the challenge it posed and also that I had both the responsibility and the power to accomplish the task.
Here is how. Ariel and Shya Kane provide many resources on the topics of awareness and being in the moment. One of my favorites is a video on YouTube called Transformational Tips For The Workplace.
They formulated three brilliant and to the point tips how to work efficiently and have success at work. The transformational tip for the workplace #2 is called Close Your Complaint Department:
“You should recognize that if you are complaining, that’s the only thing you can be doing. Work, complain, choose one. That goes back to that second principle again. [Author’s addition: the second principle of instantaneous transformation reads, “No two things can occupy the same space at the same time.”] You can only do one thing at a time. If you’re complaining, that’s your moment. You don’t get any work accomplished.“ Ariel and Shya Kane
So, it was that simple; I could either complain or do the work.
The next step was to identify how I could support myself to do the work.
Here is what became apparent.
First of all, I had to identify the following smallest sub-sub-sub-task I could manage immediately. Not to try to consider the whole task and then split into many small steps. That in itself was a complicated assignment in itself. But just see where in the document I was reading and what the next sentence or paragraph was. Yes, a paragraph instead of a sentence. A paragraph sounded to me as a manageable and self-contained bit, to which I could devote a micro-assignment. That was it. Just one paragraph. Nothing else for that given moment to think about.
Then I put myself in front of a challenge: will I manage to read and revise the next paragraph within 5 minutes? If not, how many minutes would it take? I started testing and researching my ability to accomplish a task in a given period.
And finally, I rewarded myself by recording a point (a dash, dot, check mark, cross, or whatever shape I preferred on that day) for each revised paragraph. I gave myself a point when and if I edited on paper, and later I gave myself points when I added my comments and changed suggestions into the text on my computer.
Sometimes, I forgot to record the points. I complained less and less, regained fun in discovering something entirely new for me in other people’s writing and be excited to be able to contribute to make their work shine even more.
Yes, you would be completely right to guess that the process here is the same as in self-editing. And if it is, it would be the best. Because if you treat someone else’s work as your own, you will provide the best advice possible. And if you would formulate that recommendation as the one you wished to receive for the same text, then it would be both kind and honest.
What about you? Have you ever observed the thoughts you have when you revise or edit someone else’s work? Do you usually resent such work or enjoy it? Are there variations in your feelings towards such assignments? What are the circumstances of those differences?
Credits: Photograph ©canva.com under the keyword “correct.”
What is this blog series about? You can find this out on its first blog post called 5 Minute Perseverance Game – Moving my Favorite Game to my Writing Blog.
Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels