Editing your Life: The Spiritual Discipline of Editing


I am sitting in Sydney on a beautiful but crisp winter’s morning watching the rainbow lorikeets out in the trees.  My Dad’s funeral is over and I will head back to Seattle in 2 days time.  I have been very aware of prayer and the grace of God in the midst of this.  Thanks to those who continue to submit articles for the blog series What is a Spiritual Practice by the end of the week I should be back to posting daily.

Today’s article is by Marcus Goodyear the Senior Editor for The High CallingHigh Calling Blogs, and Faith In The Workplace.

Edit Your Life: The Spiritual Discipline of Editing

Editors have a reputation of being cold-hearted. We are the people who say no. We are the people who send rejection letters. I often tell writers, “Take a look at where I’ve trimmed the piece.” For me, it is always trimming. Sometimes, the writers feel that I’ve chopped and hacked. But the result is the same. Sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, I’ve looked for places to say no.

In my experience, neither editing nor spiritual disciplines are well understood in our culture. Most people confuse editing and proof reading. And many people reject discipline flat out. We are a society of excess, not discipline.

In his book On Writing, Stephen King has a simple formula for editing. The second draft should be 10% shorter than the first draft. Editing is about simplification. For example, a line edit reviews every sentence looking for redundant words, structures, phrases, images.

Mary DeMuth emailed me recently and said she needed to edit her life. (She didn’t mention Stephen King’s formula.) The more I thought about Mary’s email, the more I thought I could benefit from a little life editing too. I’ll bet we could all use some life editing.

If your life were a manuscript, how much editing do you think it would need? How many activities are you juggling? How many projects are you simultaneously working on? How many tasks are on your daily to-do list? Cut them by 10% at least.

Sometimes editing needs to be more severe. Once, I was tasked with trimming a 40 page transcript into a five page interview. I had to cut 88%.

We’re so busy these days that each of our lives can feel like a bloated, rambling, unfocused 40 page transcript. As for me, I chase rabbit trails. I can follow every direction of false urgency through email and twitter and social networking. I need to edit my life by 88%. I need to look for more places in my life where I can say no.

The more we say no to what is not necessary, the more we can say yes to what is necessary and fruitful.

7 Responses

  1. […] in their every day work, I jumped at the chance. Here’s the beginning of my piece on the spiritual discipline of editing: Editors have a reputation of being cold-hearted. We are the people who say no. We are the people […]

  2. Sometimes, just sometimes, editing is adding things too. This is my year to do that…

  3. Thanks for the mention, Marcus. I’m slowly working through my life edits, now seeking to add things, as LL said.

  4. Thanks, Marcus, for the thought provoking. Life at times feels like a lot of filler and not much substance. Editing needed.

  5. What a very good post! I appreciate a very thoughtful article like this. Makes me appreciate the process of editing more than I have. Thanks.

  6. […] Editing Your Life: The Spiritual Discipline of Editing by Marcus Goodyear, The High Calling […]

  7. Excellent post. I used to be checking continuously this weblog and I am impressed! Very helpful info specifically the ultimate part 🙂 I deal with such information much. I used to be looking for this particular info for a long time. Thanks and good luck.

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