The following post is inspired by my own experience with my editor and a wonderful post that I ran into on Twitter the other day called 4 Truths That Will Change Your Perspective on the Writer/Editor Relationship by Jessica Strawser. Please go check it out!
Red ink. Editing. Revision. All of these terms have struck anxiety and fear into the heart of nearly every writer who has stared down the barrel of the editor’s shotgun — those dreaded editorial markings sloughing off pieces of your living, breathing creation. It is hard for many to accept such changes or suggestions with grace. Even veteran authors suffer from the curse of typographical errors or grammatical inconsistencies.
It is human nature to strive for perfection. In my opinion it Is one of the things that makes the human race so amazing. But within that quest for flawlessness, we run into arrogance, sloth, procrastination and many other self-inflicted barriers that may force us into a state of stagnation.
I myself have been caught up in the whirlwind of defeatism, arrogance and laziness. These negative states of mind have actively hindered my growth as a writer and stunted my confidence enough to keep me from presenting my work to a larger audience.
I know one of the largest hurdles I had to overcome was my fear of imperfection. Like a lot of amateur writers, I wanted my work to be considered an art with all of its faults and misguided strokes considered some kind of revolutionary new style. (Oh, the arrogance of my youth!) But I had one advantage, one secret weapon, an ace in the hole that I came to realize not many writers have: the Edit-Genie.
The Edit-Genie had the know-how and the experience of a technical writer, the education of an English teacher and the understanding of a mother figure. Genie was this perfect package of editorial advice and assistance that took me years to appreciate. I had foolishly demonized the Edit-Genie as some kind of mythical creature of cruel criticism ready to tear apart my work for the sake of a laugh.
It wasn’t until recently, after many years of reflection and internal strife over my writing, that I dared to approach the Edit-Genie and request another wish be granted: Read my blog. I was excited to show the Edit-Genie how far I had come. I was bouncing up and down, pointing out how my ability had reached a plateau and hoped that she would, like the mother-figure I saw her as, post it on her fridge like a small child’s piece of scribbled art.
Edit-Genie was supportive, but in Genie-like fashion, I didn’t get quite what I wanted. The red pen came out and the mistakes were outlined. I had prepared an internal monologue of how I would handle it if the whole thing came back with a big red “X” or what response I would have to each individual edit. I kept telling myself that I had gotten better, that I had progressed as a writer and that I was good enough.
When the first red-lined papers landed in my inbox, I opened them with mounting apprehension. As the images loaded and I began discussing the markings with my very own Genie, I realized that I had progressed! But it was not in the way I had anticipated; instead, I had become more accepting of who the Edit-Genie was.
I realized in that moment of clarity that the Edit-Genie and all the other great editors are not the enemy. They are a writer’s shield and best companion to have alongside you against the oncoming journey that will batter writers with conflicting reviews, rejections, revisions and sometimes a loss of hope.
The reservoirs of knowledge that exist within the mind of a devoted editor often go untapped. The knowledge, skill and experience they have to offer are at the writer’s disposal. All it takes is an open mind and an open line of communication for both editor and writer to exchange and expand their mutual horizons.
It has taken me many years to cultivate a healthy relationship with the Edit-Genie, and I grow to appreciate that relationship more each day. I encourage you to find an editor with whom you feel comfortable and do the same. Take time to get to know your editors — understand them and communicate with them. They are there to protect you, help you progress and, overall, watch you succeed.