The Heisenberg Uncertainty Manuscript

The Seeing Eye

Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist (not to be confused with the alias of Walter White on Breaking Bad) said that the position and velocity of a particle cannot both be accurately measured at the same time because the act of measuring one will cause a change in the other.

In other words, you look at it, you change it. Which kind of describes what happens when I proof my writing. I might just be looking for misspellings and punctuation issues, but I still fiddle with the text, adding a word, removing a word, restructuring a sentence to make it clearer or to give it more punch or to avoid using a word I used in the previous sentence.

It’s the same with my storytelling. Every time I get a new gig and review my stories, I have to tweak them. I think it makes them better, though previously I was satisfied with the way they had been.

And that is all good. To an extent. I know some writers who never second draft. More power to them. I do second draft, then do a wordsmithing third draft, and then do a proof edit or two or three. I think every time I go through it the text gets better, tighter, more enjoyable to read. Toward the end of the process, I’m supposedly proofing only for typos, but I still find myself restructuring sentences and tweaking the word choices.

Where does it end? When do you draw a line under it? Leonardo da Vinci said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.” There comes a time when you have to stop editing and fiddling.

So I constrain myself. I approve chapters and keep myself from going back to them again. I highlight the paragraphs I have changed and try not to read and revise the others I have cleared.

And when I think of a different wording for the tenth or twentieth time, I ask myself this question. Do I merely prefer this wording on this particular day, on this pass through it? Or will this change improve the flow, make the read more entertaining, make the text clearer, avoid tired words and phrases, etc.? If a change makes it a better story, then by all means I make the change and then re-proof that section again another day. But if not, then I sit on my hands and force myself to just leave it alone.

Gary Blaine Randolph is a storyteller and writer. Check out his website at and his books at
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Published on March 13, 2021 07:34 Tags: editing
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message 1: by Randy (new)

Randy Mosele I found when I was proofreading and re-proofreading my last book that after I was 99% confident there were no typos I had to order myself to just STOP. As you said, one could go on for ever tweaking a word or a line. I told myself this now has its own life and identity and like a child, has to now make its own way in the world.

message 2: by Gary (new)

Gary Randolph Exactly

message 3: by Dale (new)

Dale Lambert Hi Gary. I know exactly what you are going through. I've asked myself every day for months now ... 'will it ever end!'
PS. Very intriguing reflection in the pupil of your great cover. Cheers, Dale.

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