"Editors" seems to be my theme of the day today.
Later on, I'm having the meeting that will mark the official hand-off of editorial duties for The Watsonian to Sandra Little. The good Carter, professional editor that she is, has been doing a little work for me on a project that's coming very soon. There's something I need to look at for another editor's project I'm in. And in cleaning up my basement warehouse, I've hit the boxes that represent my time publishing The Holmes & Watson Report.
I say "publishing" because even though I was listed as "editor-in-chief," I am just not an editor. The good Carter and Bob Burr, who edited our local scion journal Wheelwrightings and was once offered editorship of The Baker Street Journal, did the actual work of proofreading and beating up the manuscripts that came in for The Holmes & Watson Report. I just accepted everything that came our way . . . and really didn't do much else for it.
That point was driven home in going through the piles of corrected articles, all printed out for proofing even if they were sent to my at-the-time AOL e-mail address, when I came to a little hand-written note from Bob attached to an article from a rather well-known Sherlockian.
"Brad, I ran out of patience with this. I'm sure I've missed some stuff. Please have Kathy give it a look. How the heck can anyone submit something in this form?!"
And how could the editor-in-chief pass something to a proof-reader in that form? Well, because I had two meticulous proofreaders behind me. Some day a book that Bob Burr owned might find it's way into your collection, and you might recognize it by the highlighting and correction of typos that he made while reading any book.
A really good editor isn't something one just decides to be, I think. A really good editor is something someone is, then just finally finds something they can edit. And it isn't just proofreading. A good editor can do developmental edits, helping a writer mold their work into its best form, its best chance to communicate the ideas within to a reader. It's a skillset that involves a little of what makes a good writer, a touch of the obsessive-compulsive, and a focussed eye for detail -- and all those qualities applied on a consistent, reliable basis. Some of us might have those things at a given moment, but consistently over a long-term project?
Not everybody has that.
Some day, if I have reason to write a full autobiography, I think I'd title it "A One Draft Life," because I don't even have the patience to edit my own work for a second draft -- too busy heading on to the next thing. It's the kind of thing that makes for a blogger or a hack writer, and I'm okay with that at this point. At some point in life, one hopefully learns to be happy with who one is. And life itself is a first draft, really. (If you figure out a way to go back and edit it, let me know!)
So here's to the editors, who are much in my thoughts today!