Editing is a varied and dynamic process that is sometimes hard to define, and that is actually one of the things I love about it. It is a very personal process that will depend entirely on the context not only of the work itself but of both the creators and the audience.
When anything is written down to convey information, it is only useful to the extent that it reaches its intended audience. And I don’t just mean that they receive it; I mean that it reaches into their minds and hearts and that the intended message is understood.
Editing happens all the time, all around us. We self-edit an email before we send it. We ask a trusted person to bring “fresh eyes” to something when the stakes are high and after we’ve read it a thousand times already.
What I love about editing is that it is simultaneously intuitive and technical.
When I was in school, I could never decide if I was an arts or a science person. My parents and teachers suggested that people are either right- or left-brained but that some (like me) are pretty balanced between the two. Rather than embracing this, I tried very hard to pick one at the expense of the other. When the technical side was in charge, my creativity suffered, and when I let the creativity peek through, it felt like the technical side tried to keep it in line with the “rules.”
In hindsight, this led to a lot of frustration, but it also led to me to the level of understanding I have today. Editing allows me to use both sides of my brain. I can be creative and intuitive as well as technical and methodical, and I can use these skills for good.
I even have two “missions” in my freelance work:
When I am feeling creative and intuitive, my mission is to help brilliant minds shine brightly. I have encountered so many bright and inspired people who know what they want to say but, whether for lack of training or a language barrier, cannot always bring that brilliance to the written word without some help.
When my left brain kicks into gear, my mission morphs accordingly: to help clients convey information that is both useful and helpful to the intended audience. By “useful,” I mean that the writing fulfills its purpose, whether that be to instruct, inspire, or inform. By “helpful,” I mean that the writing fulfills its purpose while inflicting no unnecessary pain – that is, that the intended audience can read and understand with no distraction and without having to think any harder than they should have to.
A couple of weeks ago, a post on Editors’ Weekly by Anna Williams resonated with me, because it asked the question whether editors are born or made. As with all things, I honestly think the answer is “some of each,” but it made me smile to think that other editors out there love what they do, and dare to wonder why.