WORDS VERUS WRITING
The WWK blog when E.B. Davis interviewed Ramona DeFelice Long and an editor sending me suggested revisions on one of my short stories got me thinking about the attitudes writers have about their words. Editors I know have grumbled about writers who want editing but who don’t want their words altered in any way. That apparent contradiction doesn’t sound strange to me. I was a clinical psychologist. In my private practice I often saw people who were unhappy about something in their lives. They paid fairly large sums of money to me evidently wanting me to tell them how to live a more meaningful life as long as it did not involve changing anything in the life they were unhappy with.
Over my years of writing, I have had very few editors who suggested changes in my work that I thought made the piece less readable. In those few cases I made the changes, believing that the editor of an ongoing enterprise has more invested in that enterprise than I have in one piece of one issue. I have never been asked to do something against the essence of what I wrote.
I am fine with editors finding awkward passages and suggesting changes. I don’t feel any attachments to the individual words I’ve written. Every word is the result of selection between possible words. As soon as I happen upon a word that I think better conveys my idea, the earlier word gets replaced. It is like I am the cold-blooded owner/coach a professional football team. No one is assured of a place on the team. They can be certain that no job is certain. Except mine.
Although I hold the copyright to a book or story, I don’t have any rights to any of the individual words. I will not get upset if I see other works that use the words. Please feel free to use words I have used including ”the” and “and.”
At some point in my writing career I realized that my personhood is not defined by the words I use. If a person loves or hates my work, it has nothing to do with my value or lack thereof as a human being.
So I have no problem with editors asking me to change a word or phrase. I have no problem with words being deleted. I don’t own the words. I only rent them for the occasion.
How do you feel about being edited?