Five things I’ve learned (as an editor) from The Artist’s Way

1. Shocker!: Sometimes it’s good not to read!

Reading is one of my favorite hobbies, and it can also (latently) be very beneficial to my editing practice — I catch myself looking for typos or brainstorming about how a sentence could be reworded for increased clarity.

Almost halfway through The Artist’s Way course, however, is a reading deprivation week. The basic idea behind the reading deprivation week is that you are meant to consume less information, ideas, opinions, etc. and produce or create more of your own work (whether that be writing, painting, drawing, what have you).

As an editor, this was a bit difficult to accomplish — I had to shuffle it around in The Artist’s Way trajectory so that it was positioned between two editing projects — but it was a great way for me to find more trust in my own editing intuition. Instead of constantly trying to better myself and my work/practice through reading and researching, I was able to brainstorm about what I wanted to write (for my blog, for example) as well as actually get some things done for my freelance business. You can read more about my reading deprivation week here.

2. No book has all the answers, but a guide can be helpful

The Artist’s Way is not perfect and it probably isn’t for everyone (I’m not even wholly convinced that it’s for me), but when life feels overwhelming, messy, and confusing, it can be a nice coping mechanism to have a guide to help you sort through the chaos. Even if there are things that I disagree with in the book, I can acknowledge these things and try to see what the author intended, or what kind of truth or wisdom I can find in her message.

3. We (I?) carry lots of negative thoughts and random worries in our brains throughout the day

One of the main components of The Artist’s Way course is writing what the author calls the “morning pages”. The morning pages are meant to be a stream-of-consciousness exercise, meaning that you try not to think too much about what you’re writing and you instead just let your thoughts, concerns, doubts, judgements, etc. spill out onto the page.

You’re meant to fill three whole journal pages every single morning — before you do anything else (I make lots of exceptions to this rule…). I usually spend the first page or so worrying about all of the things I have to do in that day or in that week, but then come a lot more negative and/or scared thoughts — mostly thoughts that I didn’t even realize that I had until I was writing and ran out of other things to write. And having those thoughts written down can be helpful in dispelling them — once they’re on the page, they have to be acknowledged, and then they can be analyzed, understood, and potentially debunked.

4. Writing consistently improves your writing (Who knew?)

As a native English speaker living in a foreign country, I find that my (spoken) English is sometimes compromised. Sometimes I just smack a Dutch word into the middle of my sentence when I can’t think of the English equivalent at the moment, or I learn about things in Dutch and have to go look for the English equivalent.

Moreover, I think because the amount of English I speak, read, and listen to is more limited than it was when I lived in the United States, I think my English can sometimes feel a little limited. I often think of the languages that I speak like houses: English is my home, I feel most comfortable there, and there are still a few empty rooms for me explore. Dutch is my new home, I’m still adjusting to it, but I very often find lots of new and interesting nooks and corners. If I’m practicing either language less often, it feels like I’m limiting the amount of rooms in the house that I’m inhabiting.

By writing every single morning (in English), I felt like I started to use expressions, phrases, and words that I hadn’t used in a long time, since I spend most of my time speaking English with non-native speakers or in Dutch.

5. It’s impossible to do everything at once

Something that I’ve found frustrating about following The Artist’s Way course is that there are weekly tasks, daily morning pages, a weekly artist’s date, and lots of processing of all of the new, changing, moving parts in your life. I would assume that most of us are working (and living) while reading this book, so it can feel overwhelming and impossible to accommodate all of the lessons or exercises into our lives.

I started reading The Artist’s Way and following the course detailed in the book with a friend of mine back in July. The course is meant to last 12 weeks, but we’ve been struggling with it, so we’re still stuck somewhere around week 9 or 10.

The entire course is meant to help you get out of your comfort zone, create new safe spaces for yourself, and to nurture and expand your creativity. But the course itself is intense! Doing something new every week (or even multiple times per week) on top of building up a new business and everyday life can be a lot to ask of yourself.

Taking a break is good. I hope to return to the course with a fresh mind and more space in a week or two.

Curious about copyediting? Or have more questions? I’d love to hear from you! If you want to stay tuned for my next blog post, subscribe to my newsletter.