EARLIER TODAY I was dispatching some emails as part of my role in co-editing an issue of Magnet Magazine (which comes out next year). After writing one email pointing out what needed to be done and why, I had a moment where I got up, removed my editor’s hat and re-read it. I had to laugh. I went through and softened it a little. It was so…editorish. Which is a good thing; after all, I am an editor. But I felt the need to temper it slightly because I am a writer too – and I know what it’s like from the other side.
I’m finding the whole experience enormously illuminating. It doesn’t matter how much people reassure you that editors are human and don’t have fangs, there’s nothing like becoming one to get a real sense of understanding. So as an editor and writer I can say:
- Editors want the best for their magazine. That’s why they keep tweaking at things. They want it to be good and to fit with the rest of the magazine – in style and in relation to the rest of the content. They have guidelines they have to stick to, limits on what they can use. They haveto make difficult decisions.
- Editors want the best from you. If someone gets back to you and asks you to amend your article – this is a really positive response. They want to use your work and they want it to work for them – and their publication.
- It really, really, really isn’t personal. Criticism of your work is not criticism of you. In fact, if an editor points out potential problems, they’re doing you a huge favour. They don’t need to do this. When you can bear it, read through their comments and learn from them. By telling you what they want, they are actually showing respect for you.
- Editors are people. They get overwhelmed and overwrought. They have lots to juggle. They are not carbon copies of each other. They have different personalities and assorted characters. They can be easy going or awkward, kind or careless. Much like anyone. Including writers.
If you are a writer and the opportunity comes up for you to get some editorial experience, I’d say – grab it. Not only does it help you understand how the process works, it helps you understand the people behind the process. Understanding lessens our fears and anxieties and helps us cope with criticism and rejection of our work. ( Note I say of our work – not us. In fact, I think we need a better word – rejection does sound so very personal. Anyone up for inventing a new bit of vocab so that we can think of the whole process more positively?)
So – swap hats once in a while. It’s refreshing and can make the other easier to wear.