And now, because I missed the deer whole, I want to cut back the honeysuckle – just enough to see I think. See through.
To beyond and not here?
I am thinking that cutting can shift a thing – release a space, be a new pattern laid.
That clearing a space is like crafting a question.
Lia Purpura, On Looking
Editors often are thought of as copy editors; that is, they wield red pens, mark copy, and point out mistakes. That may be part of an editor’s work, but it isn’t all of it. Editors care about mistakes and will point out when the character’s name changes midway through the text or when the sentence runs on, but they do that because of the complete work. They want it to be the best it can be. They want their writers to learn that the right punctuation mark can be just as important as the right word. The right punctuation mark can change the tone of a piece; the marks can evoke loss or anger or love. If editors obsess about those little things, it’s because they want the writing to rise to the heights the piece warrants. They want their writers to be able to stand beside their work, point to it, and say, “That’s mine. That’s my story. I wrote it, and it’s what I envisioned it would be. It’s more than that even. It’s grown. It’s what it could be, what it is meant to be.”
That’s what an editor does – an editor opens the work. Editing is about clearing spaces and crafting questions. It isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about asking whether a new pattern can be laid. It confirms or denies the writer’s intention. It asks, “Why this and not that?” It raises more questions than answers. In fact, answers rarely are the point. Answers sometimes are final ones, and they can be found or shared by the editor, but the editor’s primary job is to provide a new way of seeing. The editor is to take the work and to see if it can stand on its own two feet. The editor asks if the work has reached the full extent of its power. Again, the editor doesn’t answer the question; the editor only poses questions and possibilities to the writer. Anything more than that, and the editor begins to step too far into the work – the work does not belong to the editor. The work is the writer’s, and that writer has given the editor his or her trust. The writer believes that this editor will not act as a tyrant, that this editor will hold the words as dearly as the writer who at last lets them leave his or her embrace.
That is what an editor does. An editor accepts the writing gladly. He or she feels the burden that has been entrusted to them. He or she then gets to work and brings a critical sensibility to the piece not so as to rule over it but to provide a new way of seeing, to – in a way – give writers their eyesight back.
Image: LexnGer (CC BY NC 2.0)