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 that I make mistakes 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, I walked away from the computer and cooled off. I rationally assessed the comments. In the end, I accepted most of the editor’s changes, and I eventually expressed my gratitude to that editor.
I eventually learned to accept feedback more gracefully
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. Then, when I’m no longer emotional, I move ahead in accepting almost all the edits because they strengthen my message.
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.”[And my thanks to Cassie Armstrong of Boulder Editors for editing this blogpost!]
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