Is Editing a Form of Censorship?

Updated: Apr 25, 2021


We’re all constantly being told that true art is unfiltered, that true genius is innate, that real thoughts and opinions are unedited. To edit is to censor and to censor is to hide and to hide is to lie by omission.


Indeed, until recently, I was convinced that editing was a form of censorship. I was convinced that my work had to be a stream of consciousness thrown carelessly on paper in half-formed segments. I was convinced that to edit was to violate some holy contract, to blemish my pure work. I was convinced that to edit was to cheat and twist myself into something I was not. I wanted my work to be genuine, I did not want to sound pretentious or make myself out to be smarter than I was.


But then I realised that I was not really conveying what I meant to convey. Reading back old works, my words were hollow, cliched phrases and associations fed to me by society. The blue sky, the harsh wind, the rough wall. Yes, the “rough wall” was my first association, but is that really what I meant to say or was my brain just on automatic pilot? Was “rough” what I felt in my heart that the wall should be? If it was, why did I feel so unsatisfied?


Staring at the google doc, I decided to take a step. Looking at my work written yesterday, I switched to the forbidden edit mode. I had nothing to lose, my supposedly genuine work was far from what I felt like deep down in my heart.


I thought about the wall for a while, what did I want it to represent? The “careless wall”, that sounded like the song of my mind. I wrote it down. Slowly, I went through the poem. I tried to pick out the phrases and intricacies, the double meanings and rhythms of every word. I asked myself: why did I choose this word out of all others? What did I mean by this? Often, I found the answers were “no reason” and “nothing”. I thought about it, I edited. When I was done the poem sounded exactly like myself.


Through this process, I’ve realised that censorship and influence are impossible to escape. Even if we try to be completely genuine, we are constantly being blasted by media and conversation filled with cliches. To be genuine, we have to make a conscious effort to break free from these patterns, to find our inner creative voice that makes seemingly random associations. We have to think carefully about the meaning of each word. We have to read our writing like an English teacher or perhaps like a psychologist. We have to ask ourselves the essential question: why did I write this? Often, we have to edit.


By Gargi Sahasrabudhe