One of the worries I have about my editing is how it affects my own creative writing. An editor by definition must internalize and work with standardized language. As a creative writer, I need to get outside such standards, to develop some unique ways of manipulating and forming words and sentences. If the role of editor gets too deeply embedded in me, I will not be able to think and create outside of its narrow confines.
What are some exercises I can do to prevent myself from losing my creative edge to standardization?
1. Write prose without punctuation. Doing this exercise helps me to see various ways of organizing language in addition to the standard one. New ways to use sentence fragments might suggest themselves. Unusual and useful syntax (word order) might reveal itself. New rhythms and polyrhythms might appear.
2. Write sentences vertically, one word on top of another. Isolating words in this way helps me to hear the sound of each, see the look of each, and ascertain the assumptions behind word order. The latter occurs because the exercise creates an easy way to shift words around, from one level to another, to observe the way meaning shades and alters.
3. Use various games derived from the work of the OULIPO poets, among others. Here's one example: I open a novel; note the part of speech of the first word; look it up in the dictionary; and go down from it to the next word that is the same part of speech, which I write down and then work through a number of words, perhaps 20. Finally, I connect these words through phrases and sentences. This exercise forces me to work with words outside my typical vocabulary. Doing so breaks up some of the ingrained habits formed by editing.
4. Tap the subconscious. I pick out an image, any image, in a poem. Then, before thinking at all, I write down an image of my own. I repeat this several times. Then, I connect my images (not the originals) with phrases and sentences. I don't worry about being "true" to the subconscious source of the language. Rather, I attend to how I can turn the raw material found there into new ways of forming images, phrases, and sentences.
These are just a few examples. In each, the goal is the same: to provide a gentle shock to the editor's staid linguistic habits. For editors who are not creative writers, doing these exercises may help them develop empathy for creative writers and their processes of composition.