an abbreviated love letter to lara ehrlich, editrix

i never wanted to be a writer. because writing is, let’s face it, rather dull.

editing is where the action’s at.

but i don’t mean proofreading, which is what most people probably think of when they think of editing. to use a gross metaphor: proofreading is like picking the fish up from the butcher; editing is being the butcher.

you get your hands dirty and bury them deep in the blood and guts to take the meat off the bone and salvage what you can and then you package it in a form that’s easily consumed by others with only the scantiest hints at the extreme violence involved in its production.

all that’s obviously occurring at a level of language and thought, but it’s no less messy.

here is what a good editor needs to do: they need to be able to (1) read what you’ve written; (2) tell you what you meant; (3) tell you what your reader likely thinks you meant; (4) tell you how to reconcile the two.

i’m supposed to be writing this paper for a conference in paris. in lieu of actually writing the dang thing, i’ve instead written prolifically here about how i’m not writing it. i’ve not yet written the paper for paris and yet i’m not worried about this. not even at all.

because lara ehrlich, editrix, has read what i’ve got and she’s said there’s something there.  yes, she sent back a draft slashed with deletions and bandaged with comment bubbles, but she saw something.

sometimes (most times), as a writer, it makes all the difference that an editor sees what you’re doing when you cannot see it yourself. you can stare at a paragraph, a sentence, a word for ages as though through a glass darkly. and then the editor- the good editor- she wipes the lens.

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