The Importance of Listening and Layering
I took a short break from my heavy editing schedule to visit my hometown to top up on my accent and to let my family know that I’m still ticking. A short step away from the work station is always recommended, so a few days in Dublin was a real breath of fresh air, especially after a sustained period of intense work. I love my job, but a guy's got to get out into the light at some stage.
I come from a performing-arts' background and am quite used to being in the company of creative souls, never surprised by their (our) need to express, or even to climb into a dark hole, so I wasn’t bothered in the least when three chirpy young ladies sat at my table on the train home yesterday. They were happy, even festive, laden with large shoulder bags, and smelling quite wonderful, though I wouldn’t recommend lighting a flame anywhere nearby.
I couldn’t help smiling when the bags emptied and a wide variety of eye-shadows and make-up piled onto the table top. I thought this interesting, and told them so – in slightly more colourful language – and they explained that they’d just finished a year-long make-up course and were heading to a music festival (a rave) in Sligo to blow off a little post-exam steam.
So I quickly realised that I was in the company of three budding make-up aficionados, and about to witness what was to become a three-hour metamorphosis that would see three happy-go-lucky graduates apply their skills between slugs of gin and vodka (necessary lubrication by all accounts) until they transformed themselves into what one expects to see on the catwalk, or on the glossy cover of fashion magazines. In saying that, they still had to get to base to sort out hair and costume.
My point about all this is that I was seeing three creatives do exactly what a writer does with words. They created a basic outline, then built it up with carefully applied layers of colour and texture that developed and connected visuals and impressions, ultimately bringing together many disparate lines to produce the final multi-dimensional product. And during the whole process, they worked together to give and receive constructive (almost always) feedback that sometimes evoked screeches of frustration as they erased and reworked lines and shades. But they were always willing to hear what the others had to say, not always agreeing, but at least open to suggestion, because they simply couldn’t see things as well as the others, just like a writer, who needs another pair of eyes to see things from a broader, more objective perspective.
While my favourite phase when working with a writer is the first-fix—my initial deep-focus line-edit—I also love when they return their rewrite, which is not only a result of their application of my editing suggestions and notes, but also feedback from their beta-reading team, which gives them my professional view and reports from their peers—a dedicated reader’s perspective—essential advice in parallel with my own.
An attitude I encourage all my clients to adopt is a willingness to dig a little deeper and to at least be willing to listen to suggestions. If an idea works, great. If not, it takes no energy to disregard it and move on. In the end, the writer always has the final say, though I may fight my corner as we work through the process.
The three-hour journey flew by as my companions worked their personal canvases through several drafts and came out proofed to a T, ready to take Sligo by storm. A glowing example of the power of creative interaction. Thank you, ladies, for the colourful and somewhat eye-opening experience.