Thursday, May 19, 2011

Say what you mean, mean what you say

Closely related to the Dr Seuss quote, "Be who you are and say what you feel because those who matter don't mind and those who mind don't matter"... I've been wandering around with variations of these two sayings in my head all day.

I got to thinking this week as I was trawling through some more editor's notes/suggestions on Chapter One of my book. This is the chapter that has remained largely untouched for the past 12 months because I was so sure of its already nailing it.... until I realised it needed an overhaul and had to send it back to be edited after I butchered it on my flight back from Sydney. So I got it back today, with notes. One of them stood out so brightly that it struck me as something I could really apply to so much (and so many others, not just myself):

"Is this what you really mean to say here?"

So simple. But I looked again at the sentence his note was referring to and was then compelled to dissect what I had meant when I wrote it. To me, it had made sense - at the time of writing and also on the eleventieth read-through - but now, through another's eyes, I could see plainly that it didn't sit right at all. So I tried to read it again as I had read it all those other times. But it was too late. I had heard it from another individual's perspective and there was nothing for it now but to reconsider my choice of words, if not better explain myself.

It's so amazing, the English language, how you can use words that are relevant and say what you are trying to say.... but dig a little deeper, or have another person reflect back to you what they heard (using your exact words!) and sometimes, all of a sudden, you are saying something entirely different.

More than ever, I see this editing process - this fine tooth-combing, nit-picky, gruelling process - is willing me to bring out what I really mean, and not just in terms of this book. What is my message? Where is my voice? Is my essence truly present in all that I say (let alone do)?

Funny thing is, prior to that plane ride home, I would have said yes, I was satisfied with Chapter One. But now? Now that I have chopped it, had it edited and been forced to look at it yet again in this new state? Now it is absolutely bloody awesome. Which begs the question...... could it be even MORE awesome? Twitchy fingers at the keyboard.

But my real point to writing this post was to just share what I was pondering deeply this morning, on my return from kinder duty - as you do - and ask how you feel on the subject:

Do you really say what you mean? Or do you just think you do? Do you say one thing but hear yourself think another? How do you self-edit as you go (in writing and in life/spoken word)?
As always, you don't have to answer! I know sometimes I throw out the curly ones. Questions, cheeky reader... that'd be questions I mean.

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