Editing is an exhausting exercise in masochism. You have to separate yourself from your work, which, if the work is personal (for instance, if it was written as a tool for you to use in exploring and controlling your mental illness) is difficult at best. It's plain exhausting to have to critique yourself for hours on end. To have to really push yourself into admitting that something you've poured emotion into actually is shitty, and that you do have to change it, and that you cannot excuse it as being "almost okay".
What's shocking is that in editing my short story competition bid Isjaki (edited, in part, via the feedback of nearly a dozen readers), I find so many errors. So many things I am somewhat unsure of. So many to-and-fros from one paragraph structure to another. I must have read that story about two dozen times by now.
So when I'm up to only the fourth draft of my novel We Ran Anyway, how can I possibly expect the quality to be up to scratch? Especially since the first draft is already five months outdated, and in that time I have become a different writer and human--how can I possibly hope to elevate We Ran Anyway to the level of Isjaki (which I still declare to be my all-time best piece of writing). The answer: I probably can't.
I suppose I just have to trust that the book is okay, and that I can improve it a certain amount, but not to perfection. And I suppose I have to trust that that is okay.
Last night, my girlfriend and I read Isjaki. She read it aloud to me, and from time to time I would stop her, or she would stop, and we would discuss aspects of the text with each other that we were unsure of. It's amazing how much becomes clear when someone reads you your own words aloud. You notice the awkward repetition of words and phrases. You notice where the rhythm of a sentence is not quite correct (though you have to remember that some commas are for the marking of grammar, not for the taking of a breath). I find in this the value of being loved by someone enough for them to be honest with you that your writing is not perfect. Which it certainly is not.
I also see more clearly now, in this editing phase of my creative cycle, the value of having your own dedicated editor. Like a real author does. A writer I was talking to was telling me about the benefits of having an editor when I showed him Isjaki, which really drove the idea home. So I could really, really use one of those. You know what, guys? Call me if you are an editor. Call me on 1300-PRETTY-PLEASE. I'll even buy you coffee.
Time to go for a run. And then back to work.