April 15, 2008

Writers vs. editors

I agree with every single word of this Michael Kinsley piece on the ancient animus between writers and editors. The weird thing is that if you do a bit of both writing and editing, you basically wind up with a split personality. For instance, when I'm writing a piece, I pretty much think like this:

"Writers are sensitive souls--generally intelligent and hardworking but easily bruised. Treat them right, though, and you will be rewarded. Writers shape words into luminous sentences and the sentences into exquisitely crafted paragraphs. They weave the paragraphs together into a near perfect article, essay or review. Then their writing--their baby--is ripped untimely from their computers (well, maybe only a couple of weeks overdue) and turned over to editors. These are idiots, most of them, and brutes, with tin ears, the aesthetic sensitivity of insects, deeply held erroneous beliefs about your topic and a maddening conviction that any article, no matter how eloquent or profound or already cut to the bone, can be improved by losing an additional 100 words."

...On the other hand, when I'm editing a piece, then my feelings change completely. Kinsley again:

"Writers, [editors] say, are whiny, self-indulgent creatures who spend too much time alone. They are egotistical, paranoid and almost always seriously dehydrated. Above all, they are spectacular ingrates. Editors save their asses, and writers do nothing but bitch about it. "If anyone saw the original manuscript from ..." (and you can insert the name of your favorite Pulitzer Prize-winning writer here) "... that guy wouldn't get hired to clean the toilets at the Stockholm Public Library. ... Editors are selfless, editors believe. They labor in anonymity and take their satisfaction vicariously. The writer gets all the glory. He gets the big bucks. He gets invited to the parties, the openings, the symposia, while the editors toil at their desks turning the writer's random jottings and pretentious stylistic quirks into something resembling English prose."