The life changing magic of editing

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Good news! I am happy to report I have found a partner to help me edit my podcast, Out of the Clouds. His name is Pete, he’s in England somewhere, and he now cuts the ums and ahs out of the conversations between my guests and I. Lots of people do this work, but Pete was the only person who accepted the heavier lifting that is cutting away bits of sentences here and there, a refinement I find essential but is a rather tedious job. Especially when the conversations are often 90 minutes or more.

I was 'brought up' on Tim Ferriss interviews (credit to Anna Su for introducing me to them, back in 2015), which are super lengthy, wide-ranging, rarely linear.

Maybe Pete was trying to tell me something? He only heard the two episodes he has helped me clean up, so in any case, he's not casting a judgement on my overall work. I readily admit that I am not a specialist yet, only 14 or so interviews in. Plus I don't have a production company supporting me. It's only me!

Whilst I'm not quite in the 10,000 hours range of practice, I thankfully was a PR for many years: not a trained journalist or interviewer but a clued up participant in the realm of public communication.

As it happens, my guests are almost always specialists in their field, but not all of them are media trained. So the editing piece takes on a different light and long-form plays a part. I put my PR hat back on and take on the role of my guests’ head of communications. Like all the best podcasts out there, my aim is to have everyone sound excellent and compelling. My intention is to help them shine and to create a loyal audience. And if that takes longer than an hour, so be it.

Admittedly, there may have been one or two episodes that I wanted to throw out altogether. Because the edit was hard. Or I was tired, pandemic levels of tired. And simply put, I wasn't sure whether the work was good enough. I felt like I was flailing and it was all very uncomfortable.

I managed to keep going and I learned that rather than aiming for absolute perfection - which is impossibly hard when one is brand new at something - that it was better to put out the best MVP. A product, an episode that would be good enough, if short of perfect.

They could tell what they were making. Wasn't as good as they wanted it to be. They knew it fell short. It didn't have this special thing that we wanted it to have. And the thing I would say to you is, everybody goes through that and for you to go through it, if you're going through right now, if you're just getting out of that phase, you’ve got to know it's totally normal.

And the most important possible thing you could do is do a lot of work, do a huge volume of work, put yourself on a deadline so that every week or every month, you know, you're going to finish one story because it's only by actually going through a volume of work that you're actually going to catch up [...]. And the work you're making will be as good as your ambitions."


I remember years ago having to postpone a big project, a big public exhibition. It was already on the side of London’s double-decker buses. Oh, it was excruciating to have that conversation with the museum director. Then again, it was the right decision to make, we simply weren’t ready. What we had just wasn’t good enough.

Instinct plays a big role in making these decisions. Whether or not we are empowered within organisations to make them is another question. Whether we can live with the sunk costs is something we should be taught: forget the prior investment. Letting go can be a courageous practice.

That's the thing; we do have a choice when the work is finished. To publish or not to publish. The sunk costs of the time spent. A vexed guest. I am not the NYT, I don't 'have to' publish everything. It’s the same for most of you. And this is a lesson in itself. Plus I love the idea of a do-over (as suggested by Jacqueline Novogratz in this interview).

Earlier this week, I received this email from a very talented writer who I discovered a couple of years ago on Medium. Just after sending an update about offering a paid option on Substack with his newsletter, he turned around and cancelled the whole thing.

It turns out, the newsletter was a shiny object, a distraction that was taking him away from other work he wanted to do more of. He refunded his community and continues to offer free content on Medium (which he earns money from, via their paid partner program). I thought it was cool, and brave, and a good example that when something's not working, not feeding our soul, we have the choice to admit it’s not right rather than continue on for the sake of it.


The life-changing magic of chucking out, deleting, editing was brought home to me recently, when I heard the very prolific American writer Joyce Carol Oates on the Tim Ferriss show. She waxed lyrical about the benefits of editing, how it is such an important part of her process, a sculpting tool for her novels.

Having spent years editing press releases, interview questions, emails, and my fair share of PowerPoint presentations, my own skills have come in handy and luckily transferred to the audio editing process. My tip for anyone who is planning to edit audio longer than 10 minutes is to print transcripts: it really saves huge amounts of time. Thankfully, smart tech companies are investing in AI to produce instant drafts for very little money (check out Rev.com and Descript.com).

Personally, I love the collaborating process in putting a piece together. Back in the day when I was in a shared office, I learned early on how useful it is to read an important email aloud to a colleague before sending, to check for tone. In the same spirit, at Louboutin, I established a little group of keen writers from our international PR teams, who worked together between English and French to produce our press releases under my editing supervision.

So now, whilst I appreciate the many advantages of working on my own, I was really happy when I found a copy editor for this newsletter. Manfreda has the skills, the patience and the know-how. Like I was in my prior editing role, she cuts quickly, her input is direct, efficient, even inspired. Thanks to this collaborative process and the relationship we have developed over the last few months, I feel more at ease with my own output. That’s what editing does to copy, to audio, to anything creative.

Designer Philip Starck once said we make things to become visible. Some creatives design with their client in mind; similarly I craft my content to become visible to a specific audience. I may not become the most concise writer that's ever lived (although, one never knows). Then again, as I said, I love long-form - especially well-edited, conscious long-form.

So I leave you with these questions:

Who is your head of comms? Who is that someone in your life or your organisation who can be on the lookout for you, helping you shine in your best light?

Who edits your work? Is there a way you could collaborate with someone if you are on your own?

Do you have someone who helps refine your content and knows what is your best MVP or minimum viable product for your consumer?

If you do, keep them close and treat them well, these are precious relationships.

And to finish, what would you like to make visible in the world?

Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.