A while back, I wrote an article on why writers need editors. I stand by what I said, but it occurs to me that some of you won’t believe me.
You’re saying “my writing is just fine. You just don’t get it.” I know. I thought the same thing about my writing, once.
I knew I still had more to learn (who doesn’t?), but I figured I was basically on the right track, and that people who thought otherwise must just not know as much about the craft as I did.
And then my friend and teacher, Charles Curtin, a man I already admired to the moon and back, offered to help me improve my writing.
He had proven his insight and his judgment to me many times over.
Had he told me to jump, I would indeed have only asked how high, not out of obedience but because I’d learned he never said anything without a good reason.
I trusted him (I still do). So when he told me I had to fix some things, I had to pay attention.
Charles taught me a great deal about writing, mostly things I hadn’t known I needed to learn—the “unknown unknowns,” as they say.
He is a good writer and an excellent editor, but there are other writers and editors of equal or greater skill whose feedback I had ignored.
What made Charles a great writing teacher was not how much he knows but the fact that I was willing to listen to him.
I let him tell me what I did not want to hear.
Since learning from him the limits of my own perspective, I can deliberately give my trust to other editors, too.
I do not trust thoughtlessly, for I know not all editors are right about all things. In fact, I’m quite picky about whom I let do anything more involved than a proofread.
But I have learned the value of following a guide into territory where I do not know my footing or my way, and I no longer require exceptional circumstances with exceptional people to get me to pull the cotton out of my ears and listen.
I’ve learned that for an editor to tell me what I don’t want to hear, what I do not believe to be true, is perhaps the most valuable gift I can receive as a writer. It’s then I can grow.
I cannot grow as a writer (or as a human being) if I do not allow somebody somewhere to surprise me and challenge me.
So yes, you need an editor, even if you are convinced you don’t need an editor, even if you and your writing have been doing just fine all this time on your own. You just need one you can trust.
And if you can trust, you can grow.
Ready for an editor? Let’s talk. (because as they say, writers need trust)
Why writers need trust was written by our own editor, Caroline Ailanthus. She’s always said, “writers need trust” so we wanted her to put that in writing!