Apologies to any regular readers for the long silence from Wordarts! Family ill health has played its part, but it is also because I've been coming to the end of my Royal Literary Fund Fellowship at the University of the West of Scotland, with all that that implies in terms of winding things up, clearing my much loved little room, writing a long report and saying sad goodbyes. These fellowships, which are time limited, involve employing full time professional writers to help students on a one to one basis with their academic writing. The work - which general involves two days a week spent in the university, with another half day's 'reading time' at home - is demanding, but hugely interesting. And I think it has improved my own editing skills enormously, so I have a great deal to thank the RLF for - and when a few years have elapsed, I will probably apply for a fellowship again.
I met one of my students in a nearby small town recently. She ran after me, to tell me that not only had she got an excellent mark for her dissertation, but she had also done extremely well in her exams. I wasn't at all surprised, because she had worked very hard, but it was more proof, if proof were needed, that the knock on effect of a small amount of intensive tuition (and it has to be quite small because of the considerable demands on the fellow's time) can influence everything for the better. If you focus on improving one area of your writing, absolutely everything else will improve too - which is, I suppose, a good lesson for all writers, myself included.
It may not be possible to teach talent, but you can teach somebody how to self edit, to rewrite and polish. By the same token, we can all improve our own editing skills. Anyone who has ever been involved with judging writing competitions, will be able to relate horror stories of careless submissions, in which the writer has obviously not taken the trouble even to reread, never mind correct, those first rapturous outpourings. The result is invariably garbage but such writers can get quite cross with you, when you suggest that a little rewriting (well, actually, a lot of rewriting!) wouldn't go amiss.