Pay attention to your boredom

Podcasts are like opinions these days; everyone seems to have one. One of my favourites is Startup (the podcast about what it's like to start your own business). It's hosted by former NPR/ Planet Money guy Alex Blumberg and it's fantastic. If you haven't already listened, go have a binge.

The first draft always sucks. Things want to be bad... the only way to get that stuff to be good is with editing.
— Alex Blumberg

I was listening to this episode one evening last fall and it stopped me short. Blumberg talks about how he and his team create their podcasts, how every second of tape is obsessively edited to catch and hold the listener's attention, to educate as well as entertain, and just how much effort goes into making that happen. Skip ahead to about 21 minutes in and listen to what he says about editing. If you're a writer, it will 100 per cent resonate.

"The first draft always sucks," Blumberg says. "Things want to be bad. Talented people with great ideas still produce horrible stuff and the only way to get that stuff to be good is with editing."

Let's savour that for a moment. Things want to be bad. The only solution is editing.

A few beats later, he says: "pay attention to where you are confused, annoyed, bored. A big part of editing is paying attention to your boredom."

If you listen to the episode, you'll see that much of what Blumberg and co. do in their edits is straight forward deletion, skipping past the verbal diarrhea, straight to the good stuff. And this is much of what I do in my edits too. Delete. Delete. Delete. Sentences, words, scenes, whole characters and subplots. Delete. Delete. Delete.

Originally, there were 50 extra (boring) words and the start of this post. Delete!