By Sue Murphy
There have been times when I have been wrong. I know, it’s a shocker, but it’s true. I haven’t always been quick to change my erroneous ways, either, but I’m working on it.
The biggest hurdle for aspiring writers is coming to terms with the necessity of editing. They’ve worked hard on their essays or stories or poems. They have taken an emotional risk and put them out there for public scrutiny, certain that what they’ve done is absolutely perfect. To be told that there are ways their work could be improved stings just a tad. They feel embarrassed. They may push back or retreat and take their fledgling story with them. The humbling lesson that must be learned is that good writing is always, always a work in progress. Editing is the path to making the best you had at that moment even better.
The same can be said for the rest of life. We are constantly having to integrate new information into our path forward. Sometimes the changes are huge.
Early explorers sailed from their home ports wanting to discover new lands … if they could do so without falling off the edge of the Earth. Every map in existence told them that the world was flat, but they sailed forth anyway and what they ended up discovering was that the world was (could it be?) round. This discovery was bound to meet with skepticism when they got home. Max, the map maker, would push back for sure. Given the potential scoffing, the explorers would have been understandably tempted to just keep their mouths shut and not rock the boat, so to speak. I mean, before they left, they had expounded on their extensive navigational knowledge to anyone who would listen. Now, they might look like fools. Still, they bravely presented the new information, and the world was much better for it.
Some decisions are more personally life-altering. Let’s say you didn’t like vegetables as a child and spouted off that, when you grew up, you would never, never, never eat another stalk of broccoli. (So there.) Then, when you did grow up, you had to face the fact that your health would be much improved if you did eat vegetables, so you added them (begrudgingly) to your diet. Did your little brother scoff? Maybe a little, but the bigger prize was the health benefits you added when you changed your mind.
The thing that is difficult to remember is that this editing process doesn’t end. You do not, cannot, reach a point where you have all the information in the world and can close up intellectual shop. When presented with new information, it can and should be added to your repertoire even if it’s emotionally inconvenient. You may have held forth on your previous opinion. You took a position on Facebook, for heaven sakes. But, it is the job of every sentient human being to get past that need to save face in order to grow and change and make life better for themselves and people they care about.
OK, I went the long way around here, but what I’m trying to suggest is that, even if you have taken a rather negative public stance on our current health initiatives – getting the vaccine, wearing a mask, practicing social distancing – breaking ranks now and changing your path forward does not make you look like a fool. It makes you a full-fledged, world-changing hero.
Always be editing. It just makes you better. And if people want to scoff at you, they’ll have to go through me.