Wandering the savage garden…

Editing yourself

One of the things I really struggle with is the process of self-editing. I do it inconsistently, and I don’t always like the results. What I want is to have a dial of sorts, some way to turn off the filters that control how I present myself.

I’m a fairly mercurial person; when I’m riding in the car with my youngest son, I do all kinds of weird things to make him laugh. I come up with voices, and say odd things; I make up words (one from yesterday was “stumorbecilediot,” a portmanteau of stupid, moron, imbecile, and idiot, as a way of referring to Team Fortress 2 avatars.)

It’s fun, and freeing.

Along the way I also listen to a lot of music, being a musician. I love plays on words, and when musicians let their psyches go to find some combination of word and flow to create a thought that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. Sometimes it’s just because I don’t understand the words they’re singing – “Swim with me into your blackest eyes” is one that comes to mind – but even if the lyrics are wrong, the impact is intriguing.

I looked them up; that’s actually the right lyric, from Porcupine Tree’s “Blackest Eyes.”

(There’s a thread to chase about what music I listen to and how it affects my faith, but this isn’t that post. Stay on topic, me! I still have a point to offer! I will get to it!)

The way I edit myself, however, means that I prevent myself from reaching some of those works of art: I might say something that would serve, but the filter, the editor in my head, says “…. nope. Cut it out.”

In most cases, that’s probably fine; like I said, I can be mercurial, and I come up with some really silly, really stupid things. But I think I diminish my own life by doing so to the degree that I do it. I wish I knew how to turn it down, to let more of the little flashes of oddity shine through.

Look at the directive to myself in the parenthetical a few paragraphs ago; sometimes when I write, I do that a lot. Annoyingly so, if the truth is told; not long ago I read something I’d written a few years back, and I felt like I needed to take a good, long, hard look at myself in the mirror. It seems like every other sentence was written with a smirk and a joke. It wasn’t at anyone’s expense – a lot of it was self-aware – but it was also saccharine in the end.

But isn’t that part of being an artist? Flying without a wire, saying what’s inside, setting it free for the purpose of seeing what chord it might strike in the hearts of readers? Showing someone the joy and pain in your soul, baring it and letting others grow through the exposure?

That’s what I think my filters sometimes prevent. I think I hold myself back by trying to present only the best version of myself I can muster.

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