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Analysis Paralysis

One aspect of editing that Thomas really struggles with, besides spelling it, is reading the words that make up the sentence he’s trying to edit—and we use the word sentence in its loosest possible connotation.

“What really annoys me,” says Thomas, after we caught up with him outside a cafe he was evicted from moments earlier, “is that my editing doesn’t seem to improve what I’ve written. Take this bit, for example—”

He holds up a piece of coffee-stained paper.

“See this?” he says, pointing at some scribbles. “This was originally a word. Not a good one, you understand, but a word, nonetheless. It was originally part of a sentence I wrote about three months ago. But reading back over it now, I had no idea what I was on about. I mean, what the hell letter is that?”

The aim of writing is to conveying an idea or thought to another person, with the added advantage that once written, it is able to endure the erosion of time. That is, a well-written thought will exist long after the mind that conjured it doesn’t any longer. In Thomas’ case, however, the opposite is true. His thoughts become more convoluted after they’re written down. Moreover, they become even more distorted after his attempts at editing them.

He still points at the paper.

“I mean, I can’t read any of it,” he says. “None of it makes sense. Admittedly, it didn’t make much sense when I originally wrote it, as I recall, but that’s where I expected editing to help. What’s the point of having something edited if it’s just going to end up devoid of even more meaning than when it was written down in the first place?” He folds the paper into something resembling an aeroplane and throws it. “I hate editing. It shits me.”

A prerequisite to editing is having something editable to edit, and this is, we feel, where Thomas comes unstuck. Nevertheless, we give him full points for trying, and even more points for his almost pathological levels of delusion.

“I’m not deluded,” Thomas insists. “I just have trouble with my hindsight.”


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