#3 - When to Write and When to Edit - Jan. 5, 2017

The cool thing about the Playwriting process is that one new distinction, one new strategy, or one new methodology, can literally jump start your writing.  

Here’s a writing strategy, I would like you to try.

One of the first things I do with a Playwriting Mentoring client, (an individual who has come to me to help them write a play) is to find out HOW they write. What is their process? 

Often, their process is not the most productive way to create their best work.

Years ago, I started this practice when writing a play, (or in fact, writing anything long form.) I write and I write and I write, but I don’t edit my writing. I don’t stop and reread. I don’t fix punctuation or grammar or formatting. I simply write my play.

Then I go to sleep. 

The next day, I wake up and I edit. I fix the spelling, the grammar, the dialogue which seems false, and the punctuation and formatting. I cut out sections, link things up which weren’t linked up before, and I read things over and over and over again.

Then I leave it alone. 

I come back to writing my play later in the day, and I write and I write and I write without a thought about spelling, grammar, formatting etc. etc. or if the play is even making sense. I just channel it out.

Then I go to sleep. 

The next day, I wake up and I edit.

When the play seems complete, I go into editing mode again and make any final changes.

And that’s my process. 

And it works. 

And for the clients who have followed my advice, it has been transformational.

Creation and Editing are two very different skills.  

Creating a world where you have your characters speak with one another and fight for what they want is CREATION. You are building/creating this imaginary world and this imaginary conflict.

You are MAKING something, creating something.

With EDITING, you are refining. It is like working on a car. You are polishing the car, fixing the headlights if you need to, and sprucing it it up. There is no real creation there. You are simply fixing and polishing.

If you choose to Create and Edit at the same time, your brain is not going to know what mode to be in. Bouncing back from creation/making mode, to polishing/fixing mode will limit your creativity and your ability to edit effectively. There is no flow when you put these two things together. Creating and Editing at the same time is like MAKING LOVE while FIXING THE KITCHEN SINK.  IT JUST DOESN’T WORK, and it just feels really wrong.

But if you split them up, and leave time between them, often you will find that FLOW STATE when creating, AND when editing.

If a writer is used to writing and editing at the same time, this is a very hard habit to kick.  Especially if you feel the need to complete a section of your work each time you write.  When I get my Playwriting Mentoring clients to finally give this strategy a go, it has been life changing.  Productivity has soared, and the work produced has been better, more creative and more fun.

So I dare you…

Ken Wolf2 Comments