Apr 222020

I love to edit. While some people approach editing with a sense of duty and dread, I bring a sense of adventure and possibility. Although it’s not always obvious from my blog posts, I’m a pretty good self editor. There are a number of writer friends tell me that I’m often able to improve their work.

But today I’m not thinking of editing the written word — at least not until I get started in an hour or so. What’s showing up instead is a very juicy turn of phrase I came across a little while ago: edit your life.

On first reading it evoked small, manageable flood of images: editing web copy, relationships, a wardrobe, editing books…  all difficult but immensely satisfying tasks. Some will wonder how I can apply that same word to so many different domains but that’s where dictionaries kick butt.

Select, Arrange, Prepare

1) The first definition is usually similar to this: to prepare [for publication] by selection, arrangement.

Something written may be first to show up in your mind’s eye but, for me, this one also speaks to getting dressed in the morning. We prepare a “look” by choosing and arranging. We can also select and arrange a playlist, an exercise routine, or a grocery list. By the way, who else is finding that using grocery delivery makes it easier to avoid impulse purchases?

2) The next part of the definition? To prepare and make ready [for publication].

Sorry, y’all — I can’t get past the thought of preparing and making ready a couple of large loads of laundry. (Next on today’s agenda.) Nonetheless, laundry can sometimes be a good example.

3) Here’s one that got my attention today: To supervise and set policy [for a publication].

I’m a grown up and responsible for myself and my choices. I get to supervise myself and my life. But what really got me pondering this whole ‘edit your life’ thing was the idea of setting policies. I’ve worked places with editorial policies and had to conform. But what are the policies I’ve set for my life? Are they the same as my my values? Are they the rules I create that help me manifest those values? I believe that this long period of introspection is allowing me to review some of those rules. And I think it is only when we can once again mix freely and face-to-face that I’ll truly understand these particular edits and adjustments.

Supervise, Splice, Set Policy

4) To prepare [a film or tape] for presentation by cutting, dubbing, splicing, etc

Moving to a different medium changed the picture in my head. In all of these parts of the definition, we’re getting something ready for others to see. (Hey, even the laundry works here!) I like to think of editing as a way to polish a project, to put the author’s best foot forward — to make a good first impression. Maybe that’s why I love the process so much: with good editing, projects and products just keep getting better and stronger. I like to think that’s true of lives as well.

When moving this idea more directly into our lives, there’s a need to take a look at what stays and what goes. This is certainly a good time to bring a Marie Kondo eye to our homes and our lives: what brings me joy? What is useful or beautiful? What’s behind keeping things that don’t fit those descriptions?

Additions, Deletions, New Directions

5) To make additions, deletions or other changes.

Finally, where do we need to add something? A spice to enhance flavor? Proper storage for samples and other work-related items? A sentence or phrase to bring a bit more clarity? A special time for close friends? What will make the completed whole better, stronger, or more beautiful?

This one also reminds me that not all edits are voluntary or welcome. The death of a loved one. The loss of a job. An unresolvable disagreement with a family member or friend. Emergency surgery. These may not be edits that any of us would choose but we need to find ways to get through them. They are the sorts of changes that put me in mind of the current global pandemic and the wide variety of responses to it. What are the messages it is bringing to us? What will it take to clarify them? How do we embrace the process of finding out?

Please take a moment to share your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you.


  4 Responses to “To Edit a Life – 5 Thoughts About Change”

  1. I love the words that you chose and I choose to always live my life this way, since I was born. Your blog post is a great way to explain this choice of action in a more poetic way. A beautiful, positive look at life. “What will make the completed whole better, stronger, or more beautiful?” A great question to ask ourselves every day.

  2. So far I have edited my books and magazines, and am gearing up for the chore I hate the most – cleaning out my files. Once I get past that, look out closets!

  3. Fantastic analogies, Andrea! Yes, we must constantly edit, re-edit, and polish ourselves for the most beneficial outcome and clarity.

    Well said!

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