Monday, January 28, 2013

Editing Lance Armstrong

Editing Lance Armstrong

Dishonesty and Deception Change
More Than We Think

Resistance is the enemy on which I’m waging war these days. Steven Pressfield’s book, The War of Art, is my chosen weapon, so I study it every day. I close the pages, start shoving Resistance out of the way, and do my work. (Resistance is pretty much whatever keeps you from your calling—your art.)
Resistance and Rationalization, Part Two on page 55 marked the end of Sunday’s reading. In it, Pressfield warns that Resistance is armed with justifications that give us a reasonable escape hatch from doing our work. Pressfield adds that even valid excuses don’t cut it if they keep us from our work. He notes that Tolstoy managed to write War and Peace in spite of having 13 children. He also cites Lance Armstrong, who, although he had cancer, “won the Tour de France three years and counting” (at that writing in 2002).
“No, he didn’t,” I say aloud, with a shudder of disgust. It’s January 2013, and everybody knows Armstrong did not win three Tour titles; he didn’t win seven races. He didn’t win a single one. He didn’t do his work.
Pencil in hand (I keep one handy when studying Pressfield’s books), I strike through that that sentence. I delete it as if I’m stripping Armstrong’s framed yellow jerseys from his walls.
Editor is my job description, but my real work is what I’m doing right now—writing. I usually edit manuscripts or PDFs. In already-published books I read on my own, I’ve made limited brief edits and then for only the most egregious errors. Deleting an entire sentence was a first. Afterward, I thought how Pressfield or his editor also must delete that sentence for reprints of The War of Art.
I also thought about dishonesty and how its tentacles have such an immense reach. Armstrong’s deception even weaseled its way into my room where I was studying. I thought of all the books that must be edited to delete his lies. Magazine articles, photographs, sports histories, web links, and more must be edited, rewritten; the non-victories must be deleted. I viewed his deception only from an editorial perspective. The level of treachery he breached caused disillusion and emotional and psychological damage on a massive worldwide level.
Armstrong’s lies ripple to tens of thousands of us—perhaps even millions. His deceptions descend into the category of big lie, the whopper.  The deception of a solitary fisherman casting his rod in a deserted stretch of river with neither cell phone nor digital camera close has limited exposure when he brags about the fish that got away. Armstrong’s fish tale was disseminated on a grand scale. And for years we bought the lie, even though we felt the annoying tug on our collective legs.
Most of us lie. We tell the big lie (not usually as big as the bike story), we tell the white lie, which generally is a kindness, and sometimes, we simply lie. Like the reasons we might use for not doing our work, sometimes the lie is reasonable, it’s plausible, even if by telling it, the person we hurt most is our own self.
Armstrong fell and we must now edit him from so many aspects of our lives because after all, he did not do the work and he lied about it. But even his fall has some value. It reminds me to stay honest, to others, but especially to myself. It commands me to get off my rationalizations and excuses and to focus not only on telling the truth but also living the truth. My truth is that, unlike Lance, I’m going to stop rationalizing and get to work.

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