Last year, I was working with a client who needed editing for her upcoming blog series. She was having difficulty expressing her ideas in the way she wanted. After I edited her work and e-mailed it to her, she wrote back to me the next day. She said:
“Thank you so much for editing my work. I knew I needed help, but I was scared about what might happen to my writing if it was edited. I didn’t want to lose what I had written, but now I see how you made it into what I always wanted it to be.”
First, it always warms an editor’s heart when the client is truly happy with the end result. Second, this conversation got me thinking about the fear she expressed to me, how common it is among content creators, and where it stems from. In my opinion, there are two significant elements at play here: our perceptions of our writing and our perceptions of editing.
My writing is perfect
We all have skewed perceptions about our writing (myself included). This is normal and natural. When we write, we are putting a little piece of ourselves down on paper. There is a lot of emotion that goes into something that we write, especially if it is something we have worked long and hard on. This can cloud our judgement. Not only do we have a lot emotionally invested in what we write, but we also are very familiar with the text. We are so close to it, that we begin to see it with rose-coloured glasses. We may know there are a few areas that have errors, but we’d like to believe that our writing is pretty damn good. It’s okay to be proud of what we write, but we must be open and receptive as well.
Editing is a “bad” word
Editing is sometimes understood in a negative context. We think of the editing process as correcting something that is wrong. This has a lot to do with the words we use. Mary Schendlinger, who is a senior editor at Geist, “cautions against using negative language that we may be so accustomed to that they seem standard: ‘cleaning up a manuscript,’ ‘correcting errors,’ ‘resolving problems.’” (http://www.ivacheung.com/2013/03/ethics-for-editors-with-mary-schendlinger/, 2018). I think she is spot on with this. I use these phrases all of the time and never gave thought to how it affects the perception of editing.
Don’t sell yourself short
It can be scary to have someone edit our work due to our natural instincts to protect our work and misconceptions about the editing process. So, what do a lot of people do? They edit their work themselves. People like to edit themselves because it feels safer. You do not have someone else scrutinizing your work and pointing out all of the areas that need to be worked on. While everyone definitely CAN edit the work themselves, it isn’t always the best idea. This is because you have already read your work and know the flow of the text. You are coming from a place of knowledge that your audience won’t have when they read your writing for the first time. A second set of eyes, even if it’s not a professional editor, will do wonders for your work.
I know it’s hard, but everything that is worthwhile is hard. It is hard because you are taking your work and making it that much better. Don’t be afraid of it. Also remember that the editor is on your team. An editor isn’t trying to make more work for you or make your life miserable. A good editor wants to see your work be the best it can be. Having your work edited isn’t to find the “errors” but rather to find the greatest potential.
Here’s a thought for you to ponder:
Writing is like extracting gems from the earth. Editing is brushing off the dirt so they can shine.