Is editing a creative act? Can a writer who makes a living as an editor find something fulfilling in the work?
Editing is not proofreading or rewriting. It’s bringing out the best in someone else’s work. For the right kind of editor, this process is actually fun. Really. It’s like doing a puzzle. Some people are just nerdy enough to make it work. The best editors approach a new project, whether it’s a novel, a technical manual, or an instructional ebook, with their creative brains.
If you’re editing on autopilot, of course you’re going to get bored.
If you engage your imagination and dust off your writing tools when you’re editing, it can be a creative effort.
Being a freelance editor requires the ability to learn and interpret independently, form an understanding of the piece of writing as a whole, and work within its rules. Every piece of writing is it’s own, self-contained reality, and you have to stick to its laws to preserve the authenticity of its author. An editor has to walk through someone else’s world without leaving any footprints, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a fulfilling use of your writing and reading skills. In fact, it’s the opposite.
When working on someone else’s piece of writing, you need, of course, the basic skills of grammar and critical reading. But to do justice to the work as a whole, you have to be able to look beyond what it says and see through to how it’s made to make sure the foundation will support the house.
What do I mean by “how it’s made”? Are the sentences strong, clear and direct without unnecessary clutter words? Do the author’s writing choices match the content? Is the plot linear, or does it jump around or change perspective? How is the non-fiction book broken up into sections and chapters? Do those choices enhance the content?
What are is the author asking of the reader, and has he or she given readers everything they need to rise to the occasion?
It takes a creative brain to work with someone else’s creation effectively. It takes a meticulous attention to detail, but it also requires imagination, flexibility, and a love/love relationship the written word.
Can you be a creative editor? Yes.