Writer vs. Editor: Try Typing a While in My Shoes

I was a little frustrated with some of my writers this past week. It happens. I’m not going to lie and say that I love every nanosecond of being a copyeditor, and sometimes those nanoseconds that I don’t love involve miscommunication and the nagging feeling that no one is listening when I speak (or type—whatever). Sunday, Sunday, Sunday. Come on down and see the cage match of editor vs. writer.

I’m no ingrate. I wouldn’t have a job without my writers. But I get frustrated when they don’t answer my queries (which is a nice way of saying that they ignore them). I don’t get paid by the question, and I really only try to ask the very important ones. I don’t ask questions because I’m looking to expound unendingly on grammar rules and house style. I ask because I want your readers to understand. If I don’t, they might not, too. Did you read my e-mail too fast? Did you recycle an old document without paying attention during the search and replace? You know, a wise teacher once told me that copyeditors are the “shame and sorrow monitors for publishers.”

There’s a reason why I put collaborative editing in my tagline. I walk into the writer/editor relationship with open arms. I’m here for you. I do want to protect you from shame and sorrow. I’m not looking to cut your words down to size or obliterate your ideas. But, you know, you have to meet me halfway. Show up. Read. Listen. Understand that I do have some knowledge of your material.

Man Squinting at LaptopThat’s a lot of frustration, huh? Then, after I’d been hanging around in a fog of gripes, the week ended, I made some headway in the battle of my immune system vs. common cold, and I tried to shove all those adversarial feelings up on a shelf (the one labeled “Monday”). But the thing that put me back in your camp, dear writers, was that moment today when I sat down to write. I tried to type a while in your shoes. After procrastinating and coming up with a million excuses to dodge the keyboard, I attempted to synthesize an interview into an article. And I realized, yet again, that writing is hard. I sympathize, empathize, and commiserate with you. Forget all my frustration with your miscommunication, all my exasperation because I know you didn’t take the extra time with your piece or my queries—hey, I understand. You were busy. You were trying to write.


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