Writing Vs. Editing – and Oscar Wilde’s Commas


“I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

Oscar Wilde**

Editing can take forever. I can slave over one passage for hours, knowing it doesn’t say what I really want it to say yet, but without knowing how to change it so it’s better. And so I might change a word or two, but really have little to show for my hours of editing. (Yes, it appears Oscar Wilde had this problem too!) Now, the problem comes in if you try to mix editing and writing together. Because if you’re still in an editorial mindset while you’re trying to be creative, you end up over-thinking every single word you put down on the page, and never get anywhere. Creativity is a lot more like a quick-flowing stream – if you get out of over-thinking everything, you’re more likely to produce a lot.

I had a sudden flash of inspiration, and one of my side projects is sprouting into a novella, so my challenge now is not to edit too much before I’ve actually finished the work. When I switch to editing, my creativity switch goes off, and the work just doesn’t get finished, even if the first chapter is flawless. So here’s hoping I will get to the end of this project sometime soon!

** The internet asserts everywhere that this quote is by Oscar Wilde, but I cannot find the original context anywhere. So be aware it may be one of those made-up quotes, though it does sound like the type of thing he’d say. And if you know where he said it, let me know!

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