For some writers, editing is a “lesser” task, one that isn’t as important as writing, one that can be – it seems – demeaned and eschewed as someone else’s problem. But for me, editing is crucial – to my own work and to the work of others. Without editors, we writers would be less clear and more wordy, plus, we probably wouldn’t get much published.
So the fact that I get to make part of my living editing other people’s work makes me quite happy. Here’s why:
7. Editing takes a different kind of focus than creating new writing. When I write, I try to loosen the strings of control. I try to go deep and push hard. I try to forget correctness and clarity and just go for the heart. But in editing, I pull those strings tight. I unfuzz my vision and focus. It’s a more linear process, editing is. And I appreciate the contrast with the other part of my writing life.
6. Editing lets me help other writers. Because I learned how to edit by teaching writing, I’ve been fortunate to see how good editing and comments can help a writer improve her work. I feel good when I can assist a writer in her effort to say just what she means.
5. Editing feeds my grammar geek. I love coming upon a really complex sentence with appositives and nonessential clauses, chock full of modifiers and commas because then I get to analyze how the sentence works, see if it is correct, study if it’s clear, and make suggestions on how to make it more so. It’s like diagramming sentences all over again.
4. Editing makes me a better writer. Because I study sentences a lot, because I look at how a writer has put together his plot, because I examine paragraph structure and the use of write space in other writers’ work, I find that I am better able to consider these things in my own writing. Now, I don’t do final edits on my own work – I need other eyes – but as I craft my work, these insights greatly influence me.
3. Editing gives me a chance to learn new things. This week alone, I got to read a memoir about how a young couple navigated not only their first year of marriage but also immigration struggles and a cancer diagnosis. I learned about the Stamp Duty and China and how economists question its role in influencing the market, and I started to read a screenplay-turned-novella about zombies.
2. Editing introduces me to new people. Every week, I have the opportunity to not only meet new folks, but I get the honor of working with them on a project that they care enough about to pay someone to assist them. I consider that a gift.
1. Editing gets me paid to read books. As a kid, I always wanted someone to pay me to read books. Nothing except writing – then or now – gives me quite the satisfaction of reading a great book . . . and now people actually pay me to read theirs.
Anytime anyone asks me to edit something for them – a novel, an MBA application, a dissertation, a college entrance essay, an essay collection – I smile. It’s a gift they’re giving me, you see. And they probably don’t even know it.
What about you? What do you appreciate about editing?