The Life Changing Magic of Editing

By Valeri Alemania

With the release of her show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix earlier this year, Marie Kondo became a cultural phenomenon that swept across America. After watching one episode, I was hooked, and immediately went online to reserve her book, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. But the tidal wave had already swept past me, and I was 54th on the waitlist at the library for her book. I didn’t give up hope though, and I patiently waited to change my life. 

As Kondo describes in her book, Tidying Up is not solely reserved for your household, but can be applied to any aspect of your life. She even references clients who quit their jobs, or ended a marriage, because of the realization that they no longer ‘sparked joy’.

In Kondo’s philosophy, you must go through every item you own, hold it, and decide whether or not it sparks joy, and that is the leading factor to whether or not you should keep that item. If it does not spark joy, before discarding she asks that you thank each item for its use. 

Reading her book, her philosophy was reminiscent of the way many poets I know choose the specific words for each of their poems. The idea that each word should spark the correct emotion. 

After using her methods to clean up the rest of my life, more than anything else I wanted to apply it to my writing. To me, it seemed the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, could become a Life Changing Magic of Editing. 

I once had a professor tell me that perfection is the enemy of man, and that those who strive for it will drive themselves crazy. With Marie Kondo, I have found something healthier to strive for in my writing. Joy. Using her methods I have found another way to edit my writing, different than any that I was previously taught, and in a way that is much more personal to me.

Two of the main steps in Kondo’s teachings are: 

  1. Keep only those things that spark joy.
  2. Do it all in one go.

In the end, sitting and dissecting each and every sentence from a story I’ve written, isn’t all that different than pouring my clothing onto my bed and picking through them one by one. With the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I learned how to pick up each sentence and ask myself if it shows the correct emotion, I’ve learned to find each sentences merits, and I’ve learned to let go when I need to. I might not thank every sentence before I delete it, but I have learned to show a sense of gratitude to my writing, because each sentence should teach me something, whether it’s teaching me about my strengths or my weaknesses.

I’ve learned not to divide my editing into multiple days, and that to get one correct feeling I should do it all at once. I can always go back and do it again, and should, regularly. The most important lesson I’ve learned though, is that my writing should spark joy, and for that I thank Marie Kondo.

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