Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Editing and Humility

In the digital age, deleting is easy.  With a single click, you can dispose of a word, a picture, or an entire file.  Deciding what should be deleted is as hard as ever.  The art of editing is threatened on many fronts, as we lose the ability and inclination to restrain ourselves from excessive expression.

Remember when your camera had actual film inside it?  An investment of time and money was required to bring your photos to fruition.  You had an incentive to choose your shots carefully.  Today, there is no cost to taking a hundred pictures of your vacation at the beach and throwing them all on Facebook (or your photo-sharing service of choice).  Does the world really need all hundred pictures?  Even your closest friends would be satisfied with ten well-selected, representative images that convey the essentials of your trip.

Text-messaging and email are widely considered invulnerable to the usual standards of spelling, punctuation and grammar.  I am all in favor of the casual and spontaneous.  However, let us not abandon our standards completely and lose the skills of “correct” writing.  By all means, nurture your children’s self-esteem, but if they cannot spell, please provide them with constructive criticism.

In addition, let us each remember that our every utterance is not perfect, fascinating and indispensable.  We can cut a thousand words out of a manuscript (as I recently struggled to do) without any irreparable harm to the universe.  Those words will not be missed, in the grand scheme of things.  We must have sufficient humility to let go of our words and pictures (and perhaps entire files, on occasion). 

I admit that blogging is, in many ways, a narcissistic exercise and perhaps an odd forum in which to discuss humility.  There is an implicit assumption by bloggers that our words and thoughts are of interest to others, which may or may not be valid.  I will do my best to avoid the trap of typing just to hear myself speak.  If I fail in my editing duties, you are welcome to let me know.  I can take constructive criticism myself.


  1. Agree largely, except the last point. Blogging doesn't have to be narcissistic. It can also just be a new way to interact with your community. I assure you, your words and thoughts will always be of interest to others.

  2. You are right, Eric. Ideally, blogging is a community-building activity.