Monday, December 15, 2014

Write When You're Angry. Edit When You're Calm.

This baby must not edit her essay until she calms down.
If you are feeling strong emotions, write away.  Anger, regret, and sorrow can propel powerful, interesting stories.

I can always tell when my students feel strongly about a topic because those passages are full of errors.

In the assignments that I am marking now, my students interviewed two people about their listening skills.  They asked important people in their lives, "How do I listen to you when you give me information, when we are in an argument, and when you are telling me your feelings or problems?"

In one essay, my student interviewed his buddy and his girlfriend. In paragraph one, he wrote that his buddy said he was an awesome listener.  This is a beautifully written, error-free paragraph full of specific events of empathic listening.

In paragraph two, he wrote about his interview with his girlfriend. She reminded him of the time when he forgot an item while shopping or didn't listen to directions and got lost driving.  Then  she recalled an argument they had. The writing is suddenly full of missing words, spelling errors, and typos.

When he is reading over paragraph two, he becomes more emotional.  This shuts out the editing part of the brain.  I end up reading an essay that seems to be written by two different people.

Don't press send.  Let the essay sit for a day.  Maybe the rational, judging brain can read over the essay tomorrow.  Read the emotional passages slowly aloud and you might be able to find the typos.  When you are aware that your inner editor can go AWOL, you should be able to write better (dammit).

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