Writing Is Also About Erasing (On Editors)
Before I became a published author, I didn’t like editors. I couldn’t bear the thought of them, with their red pens and their pursed lips, their eyes like crabs across the page, just looking to pinch at my text with their editorial pincers. I used to be terrified of having my words taken away from me as if each one was a precious child. I also had this ego-thing going on – that this was my art, my work, my creativity, and how dare some editor make decisions about something so lofty, so magical and mystical? Looking back now at my inexperienced self, I can understand this fear, and even feel compassion at my editaphobia. See, editing brings up our deepest anxieties about being good enough and having to let go.
Here are five things I’ve learned about editing, which may change how you feel about the process:
Editorial feedback is not a comment on our self-worth
Our words often make us feel vulnerable and exposed – we all feel a little naked when our writing is handed over to someone else to look at. But as writers, there comes a point where we have to get over ourselves. Writers who become successful authors have to learn to differentiate between feedback on our writing and on who we are. If a piece of writing is rejected, we are not worthless. If our writing needs work, we are still worthy of love. Over-identification with our writing is a mismanagement of the boundaries between our work and ourselves. At some point we just have to understand that though we are fabulous, lovable and wonderful people, our writing may need some work.
Editors are our allies – they are our ‘good’ readers
A good editor is your ally – she is there to help you make the text the very best it can be. An editor has an advantage of not being so close to the text that she cannot see what ‘works’ and what ‘doesn’t work.’ An editor is looking through the eyes of the reader – sometimes as writers, we lose sight of the reader, and believe that everything we’ve written is relevant and interesting. The editor will look at what we’ve written in terms of whether it serves the story. Not everything that is important to the writer is necessarily serving the story. We need the editor’s eye because it is objective.
The 7 Day Writing Challenge
WINGS: Words Inspire, Nourish and Grow the Spirit
Editors help the text to breathe by making spaces for the readers’ interpretation
Many of us overwrite. We use too many words and clutter the text. This is not because we are bad people. All writers lapse into word litter. Sometimes, if we are able to exit the right writing brain and enter the left, analytical brain, we are able to do this kind of editing on our own writing. But it’s much easier to have someone do it for us.
Editorial feedback helps us prepare for horrible reviews
We all get them – on Amazon and Goodreads and peoples’ blogs. Reviews that are downright nasty, ratings that are mean and comments that are hurtful. Writers need to be tough. We will never please everyone out there. We have to find our market and write for that market. We have to find our tribe of readers and as long as they enjoy what we do. We cannot worry about what the trolls are saying.
Editing helps us to learn to let go
We are naturally attached to our writing, given how deep and hard we have had to work to produce it. But we cannot get precious about our writing – it’s just writing. What gets cut can be re-used. Our brilliance will return. Beautiful sentences will re-appear. Nothing is ‘lost’ when we let something go. Creativity is an endless self-generating fountain. We need to learn to trust that.
May all your erasures make space for what is still to come.
Author, writing mentor, retreat leader. I’m an internationally bestselling author of nine books, inspirational speaker and writing mentor. I’ve had books published in just about every genre- fiction, non-fiction, self-help, memoir – by some of the top publishing houses in the world. My books have sold over 650 000 copies and have been translated in a range of languages. Two of my books have been #1 Amazon bestsellers, and at one point the German edition of Secret Mothers’ Business outsold Harry Potter- crazy, right?