Note: This is more a reminder to myself than blatant self-promotion. It’s something of a written ‘selfie,’ I suppose, so read with that in mind, please.
I usually shy away from using the pronoun ‘I’ to start anything I write, but today I’m going to use it on purpose because I’m going to blow my own horn.
I do that even less than I start my work with … you know … but here’s why I’m doing both in this post: I’m a damn good editor. There, both ‘I’s and the horn in one sentence. In bold italics, too. Wow!
I started thinking of this last week. I was in the hospital sleeping off (kind of) the general anesthesia I’d had earlier on Tuesday for a catheter ablation and, for some reason, I started thinking of all the people for whom I’ve served as editor. Then I started to recall all the different projects they have shared with me. This train of thought was inspired, I believe, by the teamwork of all the medical staff who worked on and with me for the procedure: the surgeon, of course, but also — and especially — the pre-op, OR, and post-op nurses and nursing assistants, the lab folks, the food service and housekeeping staffs, even the pre-op registrar.
We all need a team around us as we work — family, friends, colleagues to support and encourage us in our solitary writing times. As an editor, too, I prefer to work as a team with each particular author. I don’t, and won’t, work alone with another’s words. I cannot presume to give voice to another’s words and vision on my own, and so I relish the opportunity to get to know each author, to communicate with her on a regular basis, to make suggestions for him to consider, to offer ideas for us both to try together.
As I thought of all the years I’ve done this editing gig — this work that I love, and all the people, all the projects and manuscripts I’ve worked with — I realized that I am a team myself, too. The majority of good editors are, and we have to be, but it’s according to a different definition of ‘team.’
This team knows how to edit Steampunk stories, vampire novels, poetry collections, humorous and spiritual memoirs, academic papers and dissertations, essays and other creative non-fiction, fantasy and mainstream short stories, even pastoral theology for the various intended audiences because I have written in all of these — and other — genres. I know how to spell and punctuate according to British, Australian, Canadian and American customs from a lifetime of reading and studying a wide variety of world literature from the earliest of days to last week, along with the most up-to-date journals and manuals. In other words, then, I am backed up by the sometimes-centuries of unseen writers who have gone before me, on whose shoulders I am privileged to stand, and what they’ve taught me.
I am beyond grateful. I am also well aware that my own writing may not — and in some cases, does not — compare with some of the writers I’ve read over the years. The important thing in my teambuilding, though, is that I’ve tried my hand at the different genres. I made it a point to stretch myself, sometimes going beyond my comfort zone (as when I wrote zombie and vampire stories), for my own benefit, but especially to improve my editing work.
That’s what teams do best: we encourage each other to reach beyond what is normal, what is usual. I’ve found that because I’ve done so myself, I can do so for others as well. Together, then, our work ensures my clients that their words are in good hands. They can entrust their words to me because I am a damn good editor.