Should editors be good writers? Are we creators or curators of words?
When I was younger, I wanted to be a journalist. I love hearing people’s stories, researching and writing. But journalism was too edgy for me: I’m an introvert/extrovert and HSP (highly sensitive person). Translation: I love time with people, I love time alone, and I’m sensitive. Look up HSP – it's a thing! Around 20% of the population are HSPs. If you want to know more about introverts and HSPs, I recommend Quiet by Susan Cain and Sensitive by Hannah Jane Walker.
So, after 10 years in the book trade and 10 years creating publications for a Cambridge college, I find myself running a micro-business (me) doing freelance proof-editing (with a splash of copywriting). And – not sure if I mentioned this before – I run The Sanctuary Angels in my spare time. We raise money for animal rescues around the world and raise awareness of animal sentience. Yes, I do talk about it a lot.
Anyway, on my creative days, I like to think of myself as a writer. A creator of words. I love to play with words – sometimes my own, but mostly other people’s. Blogging is a nice way to express ourselves, beyond its obvious marketing, SEO and showcasing benefits. And let’s not forget the studying that blogging (and editing in general) requires. Just because we edit for a living doesn’t mean we don’t have to keep going over the rules of grammar and writing. CPD (training) matters. It doesn’t exactly save lives in this case. But it makes us better editors and professionals.
Anyway, I digress – again. I don’t believe I could write a book. And that doesn’t mean I can’t be a good editor. Hopefully I am. It just means that my strengths lie in making other people’s words count – and not in creating those words myself.
Short pieces of copy, yes, bring it on! I created some copy this week for a client’s LinkedIn page and company website. He was really happy with it. And it did the job. It got more likes than my posts normally do! I want to do more of that. But I would have neither the skills nor the patience to write a longer work.
So, where does that leave us? On a good editing day, we can feel like we’ve created a masterpiece as we watch a jumble of words evolve and sparkle. But that jumble of words is someone else’s masterpiece in waiting – for a good polish and some TLC. And – I should add that – sometimes they are more jumbly than others. Sometimes, they are already in pretty good shape. Hats off to all writers. It isn’t easy.
As editors, we are the curators of those words. It is our job and our privilege to elevate them, supercharge them, and make them look fabulous – always with the client’s reader in mind. We don’t want readers with brain fog and headaches.
As Robert Gottlieb (writer and editor) once said: ‘I don't like writing - it's so difficult to say what you mean. It's much easier to edit other people's writing and help them say what they mean.’
What he said. I’m happy curating with a side-hustle of creating and some animal rescue.