Can You Edit or Proof Read Your Own Work?

Have you ever done this?  Go back to some of your earlier posts and look for the grammatical, spelling or word choice errors.  I guarantee you will find them.

Most of my posts are written in a hurry and usually the first draft is what gets saved and posted.  I do read my own stuff back and try to trim it down, but even so, when I read my own writing back some time later, I always find redundancy, inelegantly worded sentences, using one word when I meant another entirely, howling, obvious spelling mistakes and so on.  It makes you feel like an idiot.  Making mistakes like that, in public, can undermine your credibility.  How do we miss such obvious errors at the time?  Maybe we get bored quickly with reading back our own thoughts on paper, when new thoughts are coming to mind and demanding to be written down too.  There’s a certain competition at play between what you’ve already said and what you feel you need to say next.

It seems my readers are too kind to point out my many errors or have become word blind to the mistakes as well.  I know that proof reading is a distinct skill.  Even well proofed books often go to print with the most egregious errors.  What is the answer?

In blogging, I don’t know, because it’s a somewhat spontaneous medium that doesn’t lend itself to collaborative editing and polishing.  Something of the immediacy is lost, in that process, in my opinion.  Maybe that excuses the odd, awful sentence.  At least you can always edit a blog post and remove the offending errors, albeit too late.  I think that blogs which are crafted over days and weeks somehow lose some of their sparkle and appeal.  Perhaps bad grammar is a small price to pay for freshness.

In painting, painters are almost never edited by other people, but artists can and do rework their paintings long after the first brush strokes are made.  Yet to my eye, nothing looks quite so vibrant and exciting as a painting completed alla prima.  Wet in wet is also an invigorating technique.

In music, those that record albums are doomed to have their mistakes frozen and immortalized forever.  Too bad if you have perfect pitch, but were ever so slightly flat on the chorus that went to mastering.  Everybody will know that mistake forever.  Modern music production techniques are making it easier to edit and eradicate mistakes, but again the price paid is in freshness, immediacy and spontaneity.  You can edit a piece of music to death, until it becomes a lifeless, characterless dirge.  On the other hand, a good producer that can shape the contour of your music and craft those things that you ignore, or who can correct or conceal your musical errors, is worth their weight in gold.

In poetry, the essence of the craft is in the careful distillation, I think.  Here is an art form that demands concision and hence it follows that every worthy piece has been painstakingly constructed and reworked.  I don’t think poems are less beautiful for the love laboured over them.  In this case, the poet is the person that must do the editing and distillation, or the poem’s identity and tone is all but lost.  It works for poets.

Being your own editor or proof reader is damned hard to do.  Revision can make a good work much better, but it can also squash the spark.  Whether you choose to edit heavily, or not at all, is up to you.  You might entrust editing to somebody else, or you might regard the editing as part of your artistic process.  I think I’m going to keep writing first drafts, thus continue making glaringly public mistakes and just live with it, until I can go back, notice them and hopefully correct them.  Forgive me my creative sins.  I create, therefore I am.

About tropicaltheartist

You can find out more about me here: There aren’t many people that exist in that conjunction of art, design, science and engineering, but this is where I live. I am an artist, a musician, a designer, a creator, a scientist, a technologist, an innovator and an engineer and I have a genuine, deep passion for each field. Most importantly, I am able to see the connections and similarities between each field of intellectual endeavour and apply the lessons I learn in one discipline to my other disciplines. To me, they are all part of the same continuum of creativity. I write about what I know, through my blogs, in the hope that something I write will resonate with a reader and help them enjoy their own creative life more fully. I am, in summary, a highly creative individual, but with the ability to get things done efficiently. Not all of these skills are valued by the world at large, but I am who I am and this is me. The opinions stated here are my own and not necessarily the opinion or position of my employer.
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5 Responses to Can You Edit or Proof Read Your Own Work?

  1. Great post thanks. I really enjoyed it very much. You have excellent content on your blog.

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  2. Jane Willson says:

    Thanks for visiting my blog. I edit what I write mercilessly, then have someone else re-edit to pick up what I’ve missed. Enjoyed reading your posts.

  3. Nikki says:

    Oh goodness, over-editing is something I’ve had to train myself to stop doing, lol. I used to spend a lot of time going back and finding better ways to word a phrase or two, reordering this and that. But then I realized what you’ve said above: it ruins the effect of the way it sounded when it was first produced. It may not have been perfect, but it was a bit more true than my edited version. Glaring spelling/grammar mistakes aside, I’m very proud to say I’ve learned to tell my inner blog perfectionist to calm down.

    Excellent post, as usual. 🙂

    • I’m glad you’re letting the work speak for itself. It’s a hard habit to break, perfectionism. I think being able to write a good first draft, off the cuff, is a good thing to learn to do.

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