Thanks to Paralympic Gold medalist Karen Darke for allowing me to add my professional insights to her inspirational work. It was a privilege to be a part of her Quest 79!
Apparently, split infinitives are now OK. I love that language is a living thing that is ever-evolving, but I’m not sure I’M OK with this. Why must these rules change? It will continue to sound wrong to me, even though it is now “technically” approved. Am I the only one?
When in the act of writing, absorbed by the process and furor of creation, word choice can sometimes take second place to the story one is trying to tell. When swept up in the work of defining characters, story arc, plot, etc., the author can overlook things such as extraneous words.
That’s why editors exist! We see the words, the sentence, the paragraph, as individual entities as well as pieces of the whole. Each word is examined for its purpose as well as its tone, its function and its form. Editors are there to see the best possible way to present the author’s words so that they shine.
Why is it that when you spend hour upon hour, day upon day, writing something, you can still miss all the punctuation and spelling errors that an editor will pick out so quickly? It can feel quite daunting. Don’t feel badly, though. Your brain is programmed to ignore them, as this article explains so well (https://www.facebook.com/plugins/post.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fcarriewatts2%2Fposts%2F10214024726669541&width=500” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Society for Editing: Good Copy editors are Abnormal Humans). It takes a very unique person to look past the automatic response to see all the ways to improve a project. That’s why copy editors and editors are here – the super heroes of the written word!
Many people ask me what an editor does, really. After all, MS Word has spell check, right? So why does someone need to pay for an editor? Lots of writers feel like editors just want to find faults and don’t understand what they were trying to say. But nothing could be further from the truth. Editors see the best that something can be, in structure, grammar, historical accuracy, etc., and when doing his/her job correctly, the writer will feel like s/he has a partner in bringing out that best version for everyone to see. An excellent editor will achieve that without allowing his/her own voice to overwhelm that of the author’s.
I give a hearty thanks to those who recognize the importance and value of editors and copy editors. I hope the NYT management changes their direction on this decision – cutting editorial staff will only breed errors.
“We writers are not in need of a companionable read before someone hits the send button on our articles. We don’t need a stroke and a purr. We want forceful, focused intellects brought to bear on our work.”
(http://www.poynter.org/2017/new-york-times-reporters-plea-for-copy-editors-jobs-in-letter-to-bosses-update5/465240/New York Times article)
Do you know Glennon Doyle? If not, I highly recommend her blog, Momastery. She is one of the most inspiring women I’ve ever come across and her words are GOLD. She just always knows the RIGHT. THING. TO. SAY. And exactly how to say it. She creates truly beautiful, insightful pieces.
You could be easily think that she must toil away for hours and hours on these blog posts, wearing herself out on every little detail until it’s just perfect. But here is what I love about her. In one of her posts (Momastery: Rules for a Creative Life), she talks about how, in order to stay positive and keep your energy flowing, you have to know when to let your work go and release it to the world, then leave it without looking back. Work on it to get it to as high a standard as possible then wish it well and don’t feel the need to defend it.
WOW. This is mind-blowing to me. Having worked directly with many authors and artists, and being a writer myself, I know the struggle of stepping away from your work, leaving it naked and defenseless. My experiences as an editor, though, have taught me that holding it too long, too close will suffocate it while wearing you down in the process. You must let out your words to breathe, both for the sake of your work and your ability to create more. Getting that balance right is important.
So imagine my delight when Glennon agreed with me! Well, not personally, but you know what I mean. And she had the added inspiration for this new social media age of “Don’t read/respond to the comments.” Wise advice for a very prolific writer! Can you imagine trying to be creative while bearing the weight of all the negativity that people unleash in comment sections? Not possible. Of course, taking constructive criticism from someone you trust who can help you raise your work to the next level (such as an editor like me, or a close friend who can be objective), but no one said you need to subject yourself to endless public debates on the relative quality of your work (or personal character).
So remember – growing as a writer isn’t a solitary experience. It involves sharing your work, knowing when to say “good-bye,” and when to move on to your next piece so that your creative spark doesn’t fizzle.