Everyone is an Editor

By on Nov 24, 2014 in The Scrawl |

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“A good writer is not, per se, a good book critic. No more so than a good drunk is automatically a good bartender.” -Jim Bishop

One of the more frustrating things about writing and trying to make it as a writer but not being quite there yet is that everybody(er’ybody) is an editor. Some of them might actually be editors. I have interacted with editors before. Sometimes they edit magazines, sometimes they do copy editing, and sometimes they just use that title, editor, without knowing that there are actual qualifications for it.

It’s obviously not just true in writing. Music, food, art… generally anything that allows for a creative expression. And everyone loves to share their opinion about what you should have said, what you should have written, what you should have done. Of course, they didn’t write your book. They didn’t agonize over every moment, over every detail, and they often don’t have any vested interest in helping make your work better. Let me repeat that: their suggestions are usually not going to make your work better.

So how can I say that? Simple. The vast majority of critical input you receive, particularly from random strangers on the internet, is to make your work more like their work. See, the idea that they are helping your work is the lie they believe and you don’t have to believe it with them. You just don’t. No, instead, what I recommend to writers I know is that they should invite editorial critique from a handful of trusted, brutally honest, people who aren’t afraid to praise the good things and slash the bad things, unmercifully, with a red Sharpie.

Is it possible a random stranger on the internet will find a typo in your work? Certainly. Is it possible that a random stranger on the internet will be able to help you better articulate your plot? Definitely. But don’t get wrapped around the axle for every naysayer and critic and judge who has appointed themselves as the arbiter of your quality. Write books you would want to read. Write books you enjoy. Write them well and always strive to get and be better at your craft. But don’t feel obliged to agree with or even to argue with every voice and every viewpoint that pontificates about how much more like them, you should be.