Life Editing

There are loads of useful checklists around to help you edit your writing. It’s a stage I am at now, and it feels as if you can never do enough modification and improvement.

The word ‘edit’ seems to be used a lot lately, not just in terms of textual and filmic material, but in various other contexts as well. It’s a bit like the verb ‘curate’, which seemed to be all over the place for a while – anywhere taste and judgement were applied to produce a limited selection of something. Hence we had people curating art collections, yes, but also being curators of festivals, wedding music, data, collections of products, even groups of people.

Anyway, it occurs to me there’s considerable overlap between guidance on this process and lifestyle advice, for which editing might be something of a metaphor. Below I have suggested how common text editing advice might also serve as a reminder to be more selective and make adjustments in other areas of our lives.

Delete the word that where it is unnecessary and unless it aids clarity,
I hope that you like it.
Remove anything that is unnecessary and is simply adding weight, baggage or filler. It may be unnecessary guilt or a sense of shame that you have been dragging around. If it’s about something recent, admit to the mistake and make reparations where you can. If it’s in the past, let it go, forgive yourself. It’s sitting there and serving no purpose.

Delete or reduce adverbs
‘I’m so sorry,’ he said contritely, as she furiously stormed out.
Don’t over-do it. If your time is taken up giving too much of yourself to everyone and everything else, take back moments to reflect. Stress can arise from never learning to say ‘no’ and ending up with too much on your plate.

                   Take a ruthless red pen to it

Take care to use the correct tense
We had feasted, then we talked the night away.
This is my own worst failing: giving in the ‘monkey mind’, a phrase from the Chinese xin yuan, a Buddhist term for unsettled; restless; uncontrollable… We let the present slip from our grasp as we fret about the past we cannot change and the future that has not arrived. I am taking a new approach to Sundays, for instance. Where I used to spend half the day with that ‘back to school’ feeling, I now refuse, mentally park up ‘tomorrow’ like a car. It can wait.

Check for repetition
Check text for ‘echoing’, using the same words and phrases repeatedly, particularly if employed  too close together.
This relates to the above, letting the same thoughts go around in a loop in your mind. Instead, break the endless pattern, change activities. Doing something physical often helps. Me, I cook, bake, go for a walk.

Limit use of passive voice
The solution was arrived at by the committee.
Be proactive, take control and responsibility. Passivity can creep up on you. If you find yourself willing to ‘leave matters to fate’—or luck, or ‘destiny’; if you use a lot of hesitant and non-committal language (I’m not so sure; maybe); if you tend to be wistful (I wish I could do that); if you procrastinate a lot, it could be time to be more active and take your ‘fate’ into your own hands.

Check for omissions, such as missing commas
She picked it up and she put it on the bed.
Omissions represent failures to act in your life. Sometimes silence may be prudent, other times it holds consequences. There are occasions for most of us when we felt we should have spoken up, shown up for ourselves or for others. It can be the harder road to take, but worth it in the long run (okay, I would edit out that over-extended and ‘dead’ metaphor).

Are there ways in which you would edit your life?


Image: Eraser, Hans via Pixabay

20 thoughts on “Life Editing

  1. Another useful read Libre Paley 🙂 , I’ve been consciously removing ‘that’ from my posts for many months now, surprising how the flow of a sentence is improved when you read out loud!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It does. If only it were as easy to edit one’s emotional baggage and rat-run thoughts. At least we have control over our text. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Good list and I agree with every item. I’m in the midst of editing so this sort of stuff is bubbling along in my brain.


    1. Me too – editing is an opportunity to raise the standard, but that feels daunting too.


  3. If only we could take that red pen to our life…or have a do-over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true. Though like editing text, I fear I’d add in new mistakes in the process!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Edit one’s life is a powerful concept. Not that easy.
    I remember a client who helped me write better presentations. I was running a multinational market study for him and he’d review the text before the full-blown presentation to the team. Scratching a word here, another there. “you dont’ need this. You can say the same thing with half the words.” I was annoyed at first. Then realized he was right. 🙂
    I may have mentioned him before. He was a musician and songwriter as well as a market researcher. A 2 and a half minute song forces you to be concise. 🙂
    Thanks for the post “Libre”.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Editing one’s life I a compelling concept – but perhaps dangerous in a way (I am thinking of the messages in , say, Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). No wonder so many people are drawn o ideas of physical and mental de-cluttering. But yes, in text editing and in life, there are some elements one doesn’t need to carry forward. Thank you for your insights.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank YOU for yours. 🙂
        I don’t think I’ve read the book. (Will look for it at WH Smith in Paris this summer) (I don’t do Shakespeare & co, it’s become a tourist trap)
        Have a nice week-end Libre.


  5. This is so useful – for me, there are few – avoid words that end with ly, don’t overuse the phrase he said, she said pos​t a quotation mark, avoid unnecessary explanation of characters and surroundings(unless the story demand) and it goes on 😊


    1. It is an endless list – and I don’t necessarily agree with editing advice in all cases. It’s more about over-use.
      And over-generalisation, too – e.g. when people refer to adverbs, they generally mean adverbs of manner – though I can see other types can be over-used in place of setting the context more creatively.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I hear you. As long as readers love reading the content 🌸😊

        Liked by 1 person

  6. This is a fabulous post. Great and useful ideas abound. 🙂


  7. I rather like the idea of editing one’s life, I guess anyone writing their autobigraphy would be a very careful editor…


  8. Such a unique and smart way to look at things.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Because my life needs a redraft right now 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Absolutely fantastic writing. I really enjoyed it.


    1. You’re so kind, thank you for stopping by to read and comment, Robert.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. you’re very much welcome


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