By M.J. Moores
The idea of having your chest ripped open, I mean cracking your ribcage, prying your body in two, and having someone you’ve likely only met briefly (if at all) start tinkering with your heart, is a scary thought. Now, try doing that without being sedated and suddenly triage in a war-torn country pales in comparison.
This is the most common mindset for new and emerging writers when it comes to editing.
You pour your heart out into every idea and sentence of your work (be it fiction or non), place this delicate, life-giving instrument on a petri-dish and hope that some hack word-surgeon won’t rip it to shreds. This is one of the most traumatic experiences a writer can face.
Often, I’ve heard indoctrinated writers speak of ‘toughening up,’ like forming a callous on your thumb if for sewing or gardening. But think about how you feel after dealing with a series of boyfriends who broke your heart by telling you, “You’re just not what I’m looking for.” Most people, after one or two of these nasty breakups toughen-up by becoming jaded, and their ability to love and properly use that life-giving organ gets compromised.
The last thing a writer wants is to become compromised and risk producing low-grade work.
In the case of editor’s scalpel vs. heart on a petri-dish, I see editing as a necessary evil and view my editor like the ‘enemy of my enemy is my friend’ – the ultimate enemy, of course, being failure. And so, over the years I have learned to willingly place my heart’s writing on a platter to be poked and prodded, carved into, and subjected to having large chunks removed. Every time the process is painful, but I have learned that by sacrificing myself, my work, ultimately the work becomes stronger and in return that strength flows back into my body and my soul. Perception and understanding go hand in hand when it comes to writers dealing with editors. This is not a situation where fear should go unchecked.
A good editor is like your family doctor.
My body is my temple, and my writing is an extension of that. With regular checkups, including flu shots, endless questions, and uncomfortable probing, I know that I have a greater chance of staying healthy. It’s the right thing to do, and once you find a word-doctor you’re comfortable with, your perceptions regarding editing will start to change. It’s not that you’ll necessarily ‘enjoy’ these visits, but you will find a common ground or comradery with this person and ultimately, feel better after having received a clean bill of health.