Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

Why Editing is Like Physical Therapy

[caption id="attachment_1570" align="alignleft" width="140"]14939612_10211353713823039_7137501194304996616_o My hand, 3 days after my accident[/caption]

The end of October I fell and broke my hand. It was the first time I’ve ever broken a bone and I made up for lost time by breaking four of them. A few hours later, I was in surgery having five pins inserted (being awake for it wasn’t so bad, but I could’ve done without listening to the drill). The pins stayed in for almost five weeks. Physical therapy (more accurately, occupational therapy) began less than two weeks after the accident.

It’s a long road: at least another month of twice/weekly torture sessions and two dozen daily exercises. Full recovery will take a year, so I have a ways to go. And though I’ve gone from being unable to use my right – writing – hand for anything to being able to do many things (not driving yet), it’s been incredibly frustrating.

At my session on Monday, for the first time, the measurements on one of my exercises went backwards. Today I told my therapist I felt like I’d hit a wall, that I wasn’t improving. She insisted that I was improving, but where the progress had been dramatic and more obvious the first few weeks, now it was harder and slower.

Also this week, I’ve been editing updates to my second book, Friend Grief and AIDS: Thirty Years of Burying Our Friends for its March re-release. I went into the updates with great optimism, sure it wouldn’t take long or be too complicated. How hard could it be to update a book I wrote four years ago, right?

FriendGriefandAIDSfrontFnlLike my therapy, the editing was off to a great start. Then, also like my therapy, I felt myself going backwards. What I assumed would be relatively quick and painless has turned out to be neither. My frustration with therapy spilled over to editing.

But like my physical progress, this can’t be rushed. There have been times when the writing came so easily I could barely keep up typing the words. But editing has always been harder. It’s not that I hate it. Truth be told, I enjoy editing. I just assumed it would be easy this time around.

Therapy and editing take time. They’re both hard work, sometimes painful, though in different ways: I don't reach for the ibuprofen when I'm editing. And both are proof that you can't rush things that are important.

So I will continue to talk to myself, in the hopes that I can appreciate that progress, though slow, is still progress. And cross my fingers as best I can that my updated book will be ready just about the time my therapy ends. Because then I can really celebrate.