Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Post that Took Me Five Hours (or More) to Write

By means of means of three completely unrelated conversations with three completely unrelated friends, I recently learned that the general assumption is that I just whip my blog posts out. They were shocked to learn that it takes me hours and hours to draft a post, and that several of my last posts each required four hours or so to write. "It took you HOW long to write THAT? Why does it take that long?"

I was not sure whether to be offended or amused. Nonetheless, I answered the question. I slave over my posts. First I have an idea. In marked contrast to my friends who (by their own admissions) spill their ideas onto the page, paragraph after paragraph, without rewriting, and then post the finished results. I squeeze my posts out in bits and pieces. I can spend G-d-knows-how-many-hours jumping around a piece, writing and rewriting and rewriting some more. For example, I can be sitting there, just minding my own business and writing Paragraph Two when suddenly a great idea for a line will barge into my brain and I would put it into Paragraph Two, but I realize that Great Idea belongs in Paragraph Four or Five or in a paragraph all of its own. So I take a leave from Paragraph Two to get Great Idea sorted. Or…while in the middle of Paragraph Three I will jump back to Paragraph One to make some changes. I mean, I thought Paragraph One was okay, but it is not really 'going' with Paragraph Three and I like Paragraph Three's tone more than Paragraph One's. Or…while reviewing my article for the trillionth time, I realize that I do not want my message to be x; I want it to be y and that a comprehensive rewrite is required.

Really, with all of the balagan, it is a miracle that anything gets posted at all.

My friends offered a solution: stop editing! This is not high school. No one is grading you! Why do the boring stuff? Blogging is your hobby. Who is to tell you that you cannot stick to those parts of writing you enjoy?

Exactly. I enjoy editing.

Yes, the initial creative process during which I just dump a lump of words onto a page and pound them into a general shape is fun. But to me, the heart of writing, the part that I love, is the editing process during which I mold and smooth and view the piece from the various angles to ensure the result is pleasing and effective. Is the flow of words smooth? Are the rhythm and tone consistent throughout the piece? I check to see if I have repeated words, phrases or sentence structure. Where I have done so as a rhetorical device, I ask myself if the repetition contributes anything. Where it does not— where it represents laziness or carelessness— I weed it out. I check my spelling and (sometimes) my grammar.

Even more critical than style is content. I am writing for a reason. I ask myself if I am conveying the message I want to convey. Is my point clear? Do I have a point? Do I want a point? Sometimes I like to write about nothing. Alternatively, perhaps I have too many points and each distracts from the other? Assuming that there is a point to get to, is the path clear? Have I left too many random, lumpy bits of opinion, exaggeration, humor or other literary debris lying around that people might trip over while en route? For whom are the path and the point intended? Who is my audience? Is my goal to preach to the choir or to the unbelievers? Are the form of the message and its audience well-matched? I read and re-read and think and analyze and rip apart and glue together paragraphs and I do this for hours and hours and hours.

And I like it.

My friends do not understand me, but truthfully, I do not understand them. Why would you choose a hobby that involves you doing something that you hate to do or even that you like to do, but not that much? Why write if you do not enjoy writing? Life is short and very, very busy; why waste your precious free time on things you cannot be passionate about? In my world, even if I never finish the piece, an hour spent writing something is never wasted; the process is as important and as enjoyable as the destination. Furthermore, if you have something to say, something that is important enough for you to say publicly, it seems reasonable to me that you would take the time to make sure that you are actually saying it. If not, why bother?

If not, why are you writing?

25 comments:

Child Ish Behavior said...

ah now i know what it is im doin rong. i forget to edit. i gotta be more like you. less quantity. more quality.

rickismom said...

Editing and rewriting is the difference between a "ok-for-friends" blog and the "gee, this-is-interesting-and -worthwhile" blog. Any blogger (that doesn't have a computer-using family of huge size) who wants to have readers needs to edit. My blogs don't take me 5 hours, but I mull over ideas during the day, and writing usually takes at least half an hour, and often much much more.

Safranit said...

Hmmm Auditing/Editing they are very similar aren't they? It makes complete sense that a perfectionist would do something like this.

Benji Lovitt said...

I'm with you....I edit like crazy.

Nobody said...

You should get yourself a boyfriend and spend your time editing him.

Gila said...

Why? Writing is far more rewarding.

TalTalK said...

As one of those three unrelated friends, I never said it was a bad thing - I admire your persistence. It's why I stopped blogging - I didn't have the energy to put into it.

Don't put a penis on anyone (hmm... that sounds better in Hebrew... If I were the type to edit what I write, I probably would've deleted that!)

Gila said...

LOL. Is that like "if your Aunt had testicles, she would be your uncle"?

(Quote courtesy of the immortal Dave Barry).

TalTalK said...

No - אל תשימי זין על אף אחד is slang for "don't listen to anyone and don't care about anyone and only do what you want." You can also say the name of a person instead of anyone (like if someone tells you that your hot pink nailpolish is gross, you can say you לא שמה זין עליו.

This moment brought to you by the letter זין.

:-) :-) :-)

Gila said...

איזה יופי של אות!

את צודקת--הרבה יותר כיפית בעברית.

TalTalK said...

I think this is the longest convo you and I have ever had in Hebrew. :-)

Nobody said...

Editing a such person like mr. Lovitt will be impossible but there are far more people around who do have the right etiquette to enhance your life.

mother in israel said...

In one of your earliest posts you mention taking a day to edit.

Add me to the list of obsessive-compulsive editors. I thought about posting a "before" and "after," but I forget to save during the half- minute between writing and editing.

Ahuva said...

Oh, I always find it so much more rewarding to edit someone ELSEs work, makes the criticism satisfying to a fault (literally) :)

Baila said...

Sometimes I edit alot. And sometimes I don't edit at all, because I want to get the post up. (You probably could guess which is which). I have many drafts of posts saved because I thought they were just not written well. But I love blogging because it has made me think about writing, almost all the time. Even when I'm not writing an actual post, I'm writing in my head.

And re: your conversation with taltalk: The way I learned it was, "Balls", said the queen, "if I had them, I'd be king." :)

Steve Daitch said...

Brilliant. I can soooooo relate!

Batya said...

My posts vary in length, quality and seriousness. Gila, it's pretty clear that yours are serious essays.
I sometimes spend a lot of time and effort searching/researching to find links, double-checking history etc, especially on Shiloh Musings. But me-ander is sometimes much quicker. I also search for pictures, just the right one.
I appreciate your efforts.

A Soldier's Mother said...

Ok...this is going to be bad. I edit but I don't think I've ever spent 4-5 hours on a post. No, wait, I edit that out. One post on A Soldier's Mother did take me that long - it was the post that actually won The Rising Blogger award. I agonized over that one because it was important for me to have both my son and the army come out of it looking good and yet I wasn't sure how to do that.

I type very quickly and am blessed that writing is something I do by nature. I typically can write articles that appear in a variety of places - in minutes. The better it is, the less time it takes.

I have to watch out for spelling and grammar mistakes and when I am typing very quickly, I can type "some" when I mean "sum." But overall, no, I can't spend 5 hours on a post. But - at least you should know that whatever time you spend, we enjoy the reading of it!

Paula

Mia said...

I am not supprised that it takes you so long to write.
Your posts are more like essays ready to be published, that blog posts. I never thought you just blurted them out. You can tell you have thought them out and crafted them. The first ones, Especialy, feel like that. And your posts are loooong.
I write and edit and rewrite and re-edit at work. And then I get re-edited (sometimes in red pen, which I hate).
My blog is for fun so I just blurt out things as if I were writing to a friend.

aliyah06 said...

I found that if I get an idea and do a draft first, then let it simmer a while, it's easier to come back and do the rewrite/edit. Sometimes I have a bunch of drafts in the line-up, so I can punch out the finished product on a daily or almost-daily basis. Then there are the times (like now) when I have nothing or only one thing in draft, and I'm going nuts with the rest of my life, so the blogging slows down. Some edit jobs are 30 minutes, some are several hours over several days.

Doesn't matter--either way, you still write wayyyyy better than I do. I love to read your stuff.

RivkA with a capital A said...

Thanks you, thank you, thank you!!

It also takes me at least an hour to post, often more.

I am often torn between getting out something quickly and writing a more detailed, thought-provoking post....

Sometimes I "lose the moment" and just don't end up posting about something because it would take too long. It's disappointing, but I'd rather skip a topic than post a sub-standard post.

:-}

MoChassid said...

I love to edit but I never have time, especially these days.

Maybe that's why my blog sucks.

Have fun tomorrow night. Hope you raise lots of doough.

MoChassid said...

dough.

I really need to edit better.

Shira Salamone said...

I'm another editor. (That's one of the reasons why I'm currently employed by my current employer.) Some of the editing comes before, some after--if you look at a post of mine an hour after I've published it, you may very well find some changes and/or added links. I was highly amused about a month or so ago when a commenter, apparently posting while I was editing, copied into the comments a quote that was no longer in the post--I had improved upon it while he was commenting. :)

Leora said...

Some of my best posts are ones to which I do little editing. I write from the gut, re-read once or twice, and hit publish.

Some of my posts take me a long time. My photo posts only take about ten minutes. So I do a lot of those.

Sometimes I put up a post, and Mother in Israel finds a place where it needs correcting (OK, this happened once, last week)! Great to have readers that are good editors.

I often mull over post ideas in my head for a few days. This happens especially during hagim.