I received two instances of virtually the same compliment within a day of each other, from two different sources. The compliment regarded my writing: I had submitted two writing projects, and they were well-received. The compliment was specific enough that receiving it from both sources (neither of whom had any knowledge of the other) made me pause.
The compliment was “Your writing didn’t require any (or only very minimal) editing before publication.”
Nice praise for a writer! Naturally I like the compliment because in addition to being praise of my writing itself, it also makes me easy to work with, which is a plus in any career. But while I’ll happily accept the compliment, what gave me pause is that I often don’t think it’s true.
In fact, if asked to describe my own writing, I will often say something like “I think I have very good ideas and interesting thoughts, but they often require a great deal of polish before they’re good enough to be absorbed in a meaningful way by others.” I usually don’t think of myself as a great self-editor. Most of my writing, this blog included, is “first-pass” writing.
That made me think of another phenomenon that occurs when I write, and in fact just happened today. Usually when I think about a topic I want to write, I’ll first do a quick review search of my previous posts in case I’d already covered a topic as well as I want to. And what almost always happens is that I say “Wow, my previous writing was very good! What a shame that today’s writing won’t live up to that standard.” It’s an odd pattern.
But maybe, just maybe, practice and refinement and being critical of your own work in just the right measure really do add up to some level of proficiency. Maybe not just writing, but reading your own work over and over and over every single day, multiple times a day, instills a sort of self-editing process that happens quickly, automatically and without notice.
Maybe, just maybe, I’m okay at this.