What The Reader Doesn’t See
A friend emailed me with some deep thoughts about editing a few months ago. He is a busy guy and he was in the middle of a very busy time in his life when he sent it. I’m not sure if I was more impressed by what he said or by the fact that he took the time to say it or that he even had time to think it. I was so busy when I received it that I hardly had time to read it, never mind absorb the message … but I did take a moment to ask him if I could share his thoughts here. I wanted to sit with it for a while first though.
“I had an interesting realization the other day around the editing process and larger life lessons to be learned. I remember being quite fascinated with the editing process for Mark C when he got to the point that he had stripped out a fair bit of material but wanted to start adding some back in. It was kind of wild to consider that, as the creator of the book, everything was still in existence for Mark C. That every word, phrase, and connection originally established was still in his brain. Once pieces are removed, to the reader they are never there but to the author they still are. What a wild task to assess something when you know it has more pieces in it that exist for you but that aren’t presented for the audience. Almost like playing chess with yourself — there is a point where you’re going to see the picture from both sides, including what you’d not normally see.
“The realization for me was that in life we are sometimes like this. I think in business particularly. We all move on our own particular assumptions of what things are and sometimes never stop to edit ourselves to what things are now. Not that I’m a blogger myself but I think there’s probably a lot of life lessons that come with editing. And an opportunity for coaching around editing the inner “personal myth” for other people. Further discussion to have, wine included. Ciao”
We did get a chance to talk further and I understood his point in a couple of ways. The reader doesn’t see how we’ve changed, what parts of ourselves we have left behind. The reader doesn’t see the untruths that no longer belong to the character or the story. But the author of the story — or of a life — can still see all the parts that contributed to make up the whole.
This view hit me in a big way on a personal level recently when I learned of another friend’s unfortunate passing. I hadn’t seen her in eight years but I still felt a connection to her, and her death came as a blow to me. Where had the years gone? What happened? And most of all, what had I not seen? What had been edited out of my view of her? I perceived her mostly as strong and brave and funny. I didn’t see what else was happening. It was only a month prior to her death that I had connected with her on LinkedIn and, in that frenzy of making connections, I had considered sending a personal message but I didn’t think I had enough time. I told myself I would do it later. It turns out that time was even shorter than I had thought.
When I last visited Kim, I was in the midst of my own life crisis. I stopped in to ask her advice, to understand her way of seeing the world. I respected her opinion and her decisions immensely. I don’t recall all the details of our conversation that day — only the few pieces she offered that would help me see my own world more clearly. We may have talked about mental illness, but I’m not certain. Would I have seen what was happening if we’d continued to keep in better touch after that visit? Or, with the benefit of a ferry ride and social media platforms between us, would our views have provided only edited versions of ourselves?