Editing: A Completely Different Skill Set

There have been a number of posts in this blog on creativity. This is one more—well sort of. This is about the step after creativity. No matter what art we are engaged in, sooner or later we have to edit. And that’s a completely different skillset from the set that we used to create the artifact in the first place. There have previous posts about editing: one discusses the benefits of editing, another discusses the necessity for editing, and a third discusses the difficulty of editing.

To edit is “to alter, adapt or refine especially to bring about conformity to a standard to suit a particular purpose.” So basically we’re going to refine results of our creativity. In order to do that, we are going to judge our own work and then take action to correct the faults and omissions we find. This is a difficult thing to do, particularly because it’s difficult to get the distance we need to do a really good job on our own work.

So what skills and qualities do we need to do this job?

  1. Objectivity. We must come to the work with “new eyes,” i.e. we have to look at the work as though we have never seen it before. When we are in edit mode, we are looking at the work the way we think a very discerning audience might. Once we are in that place, we can begin to see what might impact that audience in what ways. So we begin to learn what we might leave out and add to make the work stronger.
  2. Ruthlessness. To actually start cutting away and adding in we must be without fear and without remorse. Every piece that we eliminate or modify is something that we made, and while it may have a great deal of merit on its own, it must be removed for the overall good of the piece. It takes strength to excise perfectly good material, but we must trust ourselves that the impact of the edited piece will justify the surgery.
  3. Knowledge of purpose, plan, message. In order to make such a judgement, we must first be aware of what the piece of work is trying to accomplish. Only by having this goal foremost in mind can we assess whether the artifact succeeds or fails in achieving that purpose. A firm separation from the artist must be maintained to insure valid judgement.
  4. A set of standards by which to judge. In addition to the goal of the piece, we need to be aware of our own standards about what makes art good. This can be something as simple as adherence to the principles of design or some more complex set of standards that has to do with our sense of aesthetics and ultimately what we think about the nature of art.
  5. A willingness to check the tiniest of details. We not only have to look at large issues like message and adherence to standards, we have to be able to drill down into the work to see how very small details affect the larger work. It is at this point when we really begin to understand what must be changed to improve the piece, or what needs to be left out entirely, or what must be enhanced.
  6. A means of judging the overall impact. Now that we have standards and some notion of the purpose of the piece and have looked at the details, we need to take a bird’s eye view to see how everything works together to create overall impact, and, more importantly, how pruning can improve that impact.

As you can see, this is not even close to the skill set for creativity. But if we are to be successful as working artists, we must develop this set of qualities and skills as well as the creative ones. Just as we develop our creative work flow, we must develop our judgement and willingness to edit ruthlessly to better our imaginative output.  Better editing will facilitate better work.

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Date: Monday, 27. May 2019 0:34
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Creativity, Productivity, Quality

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