Edit Kindly

There is no substitute for a kind reader.

You must find a person, or even better a group of people, who are willing to read your work kindly. To read kindly is to give a writer the benefit of the doubt, to sympathise with their intentions, and to meet them halfway.

This kind of reader is the one who pulls out everything that is best in your writing and tells you why it works. They recognize original ideas, clear structure, clean language, and powerful imagery, and they tell you. They read like a reader, not like another writer. They tell you how the writing affects them, not how they would do it differently, or better.

For me, this benevolent stage of the editing process is an indispensable part of the process between having a good idea, and having a good piece of writing, and I would bet this is true for many other writers, as well.

But it is not a talent that people are born with. It is a set of skills that we develop by interacting with other writers. What praise and reinforcement do they find helpful? How can you allay the fears of your fellows? What do you say to encourage someone whose writing is at low ebb?

Once you have learned to edit others kindly, you can turn the same kindness on your own writing. What works best in what you are already doing? Has your writing achieved some of the aims you outlined for yourself? What can you be proud of know that you have a first draft?

Being kind to yourself is an important step towards being a regular writer. Being kind to others will make you part of a community who encourage one another.

Practices

  1. Find a kind reader. This may be a process of trial and error. They do not have to be a specialist, or even an experienced writer. They do have to be enthusiastic, and willing to read your work.
  2. Set up a writing group. Emphasize that the group is not for critiquing each other’s writing, but for encouraging one another to write more, and to write better.
    1. Lay some ground rules about what kinds of feedback are useful and constructive.
    2. Set regular meetings.
  3. Keep a running list of your own writing strengths. What works best in your writing now? How can you make the most of your strengths?
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