“UGH! How Dare You?” is a guest post from our editor, Caroline.
It’s completely predictable. Every single time I get a document back from one of my editors, I will squawk with indignation about at least one of the stupid and artless changes the editor has made to my work—and then within a couple of days, sometimes less, I’ll reread the thing and realize the editor was right.
It’s not that the editor is always right.
Even the best editors make mistakes, and some editors, however good, are just a bad match for a given project. It’s that I always start out by thinking the editor is wrong, even when the edits have actually improved the piece.
I am both a writer and an editor. That doesn’t mean I can do all my own editing (everyone benefits from an outside perspective), but it does mean I’ve been on both sides of the process.
I’ve been working for Eric as an editor for a couple of years, now. It’s a good gig. I work on his writing, and also that of his colleagues and clients. So if you send content to Eric and get it back all warped out of recognizable shape, I’m probably at least partly to blame. You probably said UGH! when you saw what I did. I’m just saying I know how it feels. It comes down to trust.
I used to always fight my editors.
Even if I accepted the changes as the price of getting published, privately I figured the editor just didn’t get what I was trying to do as a writer. I felt right, so I figured I must be.
That all changed when a man I trust and admire offered to edit for me—and made a lot of the same changes the “clueless idiots who didn’t get it” had tried. I still didn’t like the process, but I trusted him enough to give his ideas a chance, to think maybe he’s right. And that’s when I learned a whole new way of looking at my work, and a whole new way of writing.
Look, I’m not saying “shut up and listen to your editor!” Sometimes editors are wrong—sometimes I’m wrong. This isn’t about obedience.
It’s about trust.
Sometimes our first protective instinct is not our best thought. It’s about knowing that if we can trust another enough to follow where our own thoughts and abilities can’t take us, we might be able to do great things we couldn’t have done on our own.
It goes beyond writing.
I’m a writer and editor, so creating text is my thing, but the principle I’m describing goes way beyond writing. The best athletes in the world have coaches. Most business people have supervisors. Most people, no matter what they do, have other people on their team, and some team members are empowered to say “this needs to be better.” It’s not about surrendering your own judgment, it’s about recognizing that other people have a perspective on you and your work that you lack—and you can get better if you avail yourself of their perspective.
It’s about deciding whether you trust someone enough to give their ideas a chance.
And if you happen to find yourself on the receiving end of my editorial skill, know that I appreciate your trust—and that I’ve spent plenty of time getting my own documents marked up by other people and I don’t like it either.
It’s about riding out the “UGH!” and seeing what happens on the other side.
Originally, our editor wanted to use ACK in the title, but that’s our CEO’s, Eric Kasimov, daughter’s initials; we couldn’t do that. Case in point how editors make changes to a writers work.