How I survive being edited

As a freelance editor, I spend a lot of time changing authors’ texts. That’s my job. It wasn’t until I experienced the editing process firsthand before publishing my book, Business Matters, that I truly realized what other authors may know: It’s hard on the ego to be edited.

When I saw the edits, I didn’t cry or stamp my feet, but I did clench my teeth in resentment many times. Please note that I wasn’t upset about grammatical or punctuation corrections—I know I make mistakes that I can’t see, as does every writer. I always welcome suggestions that improve my grammar and punctuation.

Instead, I was reacting to content suggestions, such as “Explain this further” or “Change this word” or “Consider softening this” or “This should be a whole separate chapter.” I was rejecting the advice for which I was paying! Eventually, though, after I walked away from the computer and cooled off, I rationally assessed the comments. In the end, I accepted most of my editor’s changes, and I eventually expressed my gratitude to that editor.

Progress!

When it came time to have my next book, Webinar School, edited before publication, I shared the draft with my friend Jane MacKenzie. My reaction to her edits and comments was less emotional. I wrote, “I’m so very grateful for your excellent comments. It’s amazing how locked down I get when I’m tired of a project. My mindset is: ‘It’s fine as it is.’ You pointed out where it’s not fine! Thank you for that.”

I recognize that my initial behavior when being edited is dysfunctional. My recovery friends suggest that I admit my powerlessness over my initial negative reactions to feedback. It’s OK to have those feelings, they tell me—just don’t act on those feelings. So I sit on my hands or go for a walk or scrub the floor (I work at home) until enough time has passed. Once I’m no longer emotional, I move ahead in accepting almost all the edits because they will improve my writing.

I love the words of Frank Norris, an American author (1870–1902): “I hate to write, but I like to have written” [my bolding]. I would slightly reframe this comment: “I hate to be edited, but I like to have been edited.”

I wish you a great editing experience with any of our Boulder Editors. (And thanks to Cassie Armstrong of Boulder Editors for editing this blogpost!)

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Bette Frick

Bette Frick is an experienced editorial consultant providing technical, medical, health care, and business editing services in the Boulder area. She is the author of Business Matters and Webinar School.

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