One of the coolest compliments I ever received from a coworker was about me as an editor.
In a meeting with our executive director, he described our work relationship as a symbiotic partnership where he “spewed a bunch of crap” on paper, then gave it to me to “become brilliant.” He complimented my ability to make his work tighter, stronger and clearer – not just by cleaning up the text, but by asking questions, smoothing transitions and pointing out inconsistencies without ever taking away from his meaning.
“Somehow, you know what I’m trying to say,” he said. “And when you’re done with it, it still sounds like me – just a better version of me.”
Simple, I know. But as someone who takes editing very seriously – and finds it to be an underappreciated art – it meant the world to me.
Many people tend to think editing is making sure words are spelled correctly and that your to’s/two’s/too’s make sense. But there’s so much more.
I approach editing like a puzzle, something that challenges my brain as I’m forced to find the best combination of words and structure to make someone’s work that much better.
I recently read a great article by Adrienne Montgomery about the creativity that editing involves. Montgomery makes the case that editing, for all its rules and restrictions, requires a level of creativity that’s often overlooked.
I couldn’t agree more.
It takes some creativity to review a 53-word sentence and condense it down to 20. It’s pulling sentences, snippets and entire paragraphs from one place and crunching them somewhere else, while also writing lead text to make it all make sense. It’s simplifying a jargon-heavy document to improve readability.
A good editor complements the work you’ve already done, and will do everything in his or her power to bring your work to the next level. A good editor understands what you’re trying to say and helps you say it in the most effective way. Good editors know where the rules should hold hard and fast, and where suggestions are more beneficial than demands.
And that takes a lot of creativity.
Believe me – your editor loves you. And editors appreciate your respect of what they do. It might seem easy to redline a document, but it takes much more than most people immediately consider. If you’ve poured your heart and soul into the creative process of writing, you can bet that a quality editor is doing the exact same thing.
Creative writing and editing might look a bit different, but we all really want the same thing – a thoughtful final product that makes the reader happy!