I have been spending a lot of hours on my “self-editing project.” Originally I was trying to sort out and define editing for my clients and potential clients. I conceived it then as a 2 or 3-page document for potential clients to help them understand the basics of the editing process. But it quickly turned into 10,000 plus words in length, with a lot more to come, based on my notes and research. And it didn’t take long for me to realize it doesn’t always follow mainstream views.
In fact, my project is turning into a book-length reflection of my personal views of the purpose of editing, and specifically, the self-editing parts of that process. I had been emphasizing the need for editors to be clear on their “specialities” and the ways they can help writers—but more and more the emphasis has switched to writers being clear on their purposes for writing. It also originally focused on my personal goals to help writers become proficient writers instead of relying on editors—and that has developed into a focus on the writing journey and how self-editing can be such an important part of developing writing skills and purposes.
Why would I, an editor, want to encourage clients to do more self-editing and rely less on me? Yes, I want writers to become better writers. But also, as I have often been requested by clients to “please just fix it,” the more I have realized that in that kind of “fixing” process, my voice and approach is likely to overshadow the writer’s voice and unique ideas and approaches and creativity. And that really bothers me!
I have also realized in the process of my project that I am—as has been pointed out several times recently by people who know me well—a teacher even more than a writer and editor. And, I hope, a teacher who encourages my students to not only learn the foundations, the basics that underlie good writing and creativity, but to then build their own unique style and voice and share their own creative ideas and stories with the world. To start them out on adventure and exploration—providing them with basic tools and supplies and pointing out some danger spots on the trail ahead, but also encouraging them to figure out unique ways to traverse those areas and maybe even find new trails. And to seek their own writing destination and goals, however unique those might be.
As I follow my own personal exploration in my writing, teaching and editing journey, I realize that finding those personal, unique goals requires a great deal of self-learning and self-editing, along with the help of a unique, caring, enthusiastic team of helpers. And, of course, that team will include, when needed, the help of a carefully chosen editor who can provide personalized help, through not just technical editing but ideally through teaching, guidance, coaching, direction. That is, an editor who can facilitate the writer’s personal needs as he or she follows his or her unique writing journey.
This realization has put myself as an “editor” on a different track, too. I have, through my editing experiences and my own experiments with self-editing and reliance on my wonderful writing team, come to understand what kinds of editing I am not great at, even as I’ve learned more and more about editing and writing. And I have also been learning what ways I’d really like to help writers achieve their own goals. And to help them love the adventure, however long it lasts. (That’s another thing I’ve realized: not everyone wants the long-haul writing career goal, and for sure that will also affect the writing and editing process. I’ve come to realize I love to help writers find their own goals and help them determine the process that will work for them. And that means I have to do some rewriting, and rethinking, of some of the advice I have already put down in my “project.”
The thing is, I have been writing a document based on researching lots of other people’s thoughts and ideas on writing and editing, and added in some of my personal viewpoints based on my own experiences. But what I realize is suddenly happening is that I’m starting to connect the dots, so to speak, and come up with my own perspectives and philosophy … things I haven’t heard or read before. Which is pretty exciting, don’t you think? It’s also leading me in some very unexpected and exciting directions in my own writing journey as I learn more about who I am and where that might lead me.
What about you? Does your writing reflect who you are? How does that affect your writing adventures?
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