In some ways, editing is quite counter-cultural. Whereas our culture tells us to Always Expand, editing says “Reduce”. Our culture says, “All self-expression is necessary, useful, and good.” Editing says, “Rubbish – your audience doesn’t care about your self-expression unless it relates to them or tells a good story.” I enjoy editing because it follows certain rules; try to redefine those rules, and watch your communication turn into chaos. No one will know what you are trying to say.
Out of the many reasons why I dislike most modern (i.e. post-1880’s) ‘progressive’ writing, my biggest issue is that they try to pack too much into the story. The story gets lost as the author tries to add irrelevant cultural definition, redefine what’s been accepted for centuries, attach some futuristic reason why it’s better to reach for the New at the expense of the Old, vilify the Old for being….Old, and then wrap everything up by saying, “But nothing matters much anyway because it’s all subject to change, and yet it’s good, even though there isn’t any kind of Good versus Evil, because…..progress.”
Really clever people read this sort of twaddle, and think, “Ah, I’m confused. Therefore, this must be really really meaningful, and over drinks and alternative substances, I shall opine as to the True Meaning of the text.” Only, everyone at the party where they are Opining either mutters or shouts out, “That’s ridiculous! The REAL meaning of what the author was trying to say is…..” and a few others pipe in, and pretty soon, the whole room is engaged in some sort of football scrum of verbal chaos. Apparently, this is the goal of postmodern writing. If your audience spends more timing diving into your background with the persistence of psychologists, trying to figure out what on earth you meant by your writing that goes around in circles, you’ve won.
Won ….. What?
No post-modern author explains how you know you’ve gained any sort of victory – is the nature of the Battle against self? Against the world? Against old ways of doing things? Nobody knows, and neither battle nor progress is really held to have any meaning. We’re all on this endless journey of self-discovery with no end in sight. If you believe in karma, this might be meaningful, because you may have another century or two to get somewhere.
In editing, the end of the journey is more clarity and more focus, so that your audience knows what you’re saying and why. In older literature, the authors knew what they were saying and why it was important. Even if their message was wrong, and their hearts immeasurably fouled, they had a real, defined goal rather thanThe Journey or Process being the Goal. If that’s so, then everyone can comfort themselves that there is no such thing as success or failure, because you’re still on a journey – even if it means you spend your life drowning in endless circles.
Redefinition: A Big Waste of Time
If every word can be redefined, everyone spends more time trying to figure out everyone else’s message than actually living out any particular message. The ones who hold the definitions control the conversations. If their definition means harm and destruction, rather than life and light, everyone suffers. You’ll find yourself flung into the bottom of hole in a deserted alleyway, for the fourth or fifth time, trying to convince yourself that it’s a valuable way to see the stars. That’s only true if you get hauled out of the pit of Dothan and appointed a valuable task….like saving a country from starvation.
Don’t mistake confusion for wisdom.