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Miss you, editors and editrixes of my past

May 3, 2010

As you’ve no doubt noticed, there is now another sidebar on this page’s right rail entitled “Le Mots Justes,” which will be a depository for links to what I think to be my most compelling blog posts.

My computer and voice recorder are on their way, and I’ll be able to be a lot more productive when they arrive, so until then, I’m clamoring for stuff to do. I haven’t had much to blog about, so I decided to make some cosmetic changes to the blog itself, which eventually gave me something to blog about.

In digging through my posts to find some to highlight, I indulged myself in rereading many of them. I noticed quickly in many of these — including all the ones I’ve linked to and since edited — that there were mistakes. Most were superficial errors due mostly to haste: redundant usage, faulty parallelism, omitted punctuation. Here and there, I found some more substantive issues, albeit none that weren’t easily correctable.

The point is: with every single post on this blog, I bear the sole responsibility for the content. From conception to publication, it’s all just me.

Simply taking a bit more time with these posts would likely yield cleaner copy, but beyond the superficial stuff, an editor can really take a writer to another level.  I’ve been fortunate to have worked with some truly inspired editors, with whom I’ve produced some of my best writing.

As I’ve worked on this project, I’ve bounced ideas off countless friends and colleagues, and for these interactions I’m grateful. But there’s something to be said for the writer/editor relationship that isn’t easily replicated elsewhere. I look forward to working with someone who can tell me when to tighten up a mealy-mouthed sentence, to settle for a widely recognizable word in place of a more specific but wholly esoteric one, or to simply kick me in the ass when the overall quality has dipped (and, in some cases, remind me of such cases months and years later).

It’s not simply a humility thing, either. An editor does not need to be more capable than his writing counterpart to improve said writer’s writing. He or she simply needs to be able to view things a bit differently and to confront and criticize when necessary. An editor must be sympathetic and merciless, and for that reason, it’s not usually a good idea for this person to also be a loved one; I’ve forged great relationships with people who were once editors, but once such a relationship is forged, this person ceases to be a helpful editor almost immediately. An editor must be able to tell you things that can be told by only someone with either no emotional investment whatsoever or so much that your own personal failings will hurt them more than dealing with criticizing you harshly. An editor should be willing to talk about things but should not be easily talked out of things.

I’m beginning to ramble. An editor would be able to reign me in, get me back on point, and probably have me cut half of this. By myself, I’ll simply close awkwardly for effect.

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