Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Zen and the Art of Being Edited....

Years ago when I first began writing for publication a woman told me she wrote all the time but that she would never send it to some idiot editor to read, judge and change. It was perfect just the way it was. She still has a drawer full of writing and is bitter and angry that she is unpublished. One might point out she has never sent anything out to be looked at never mind accepted but why bother? She believes she is right and they are wrong.

Back when I was still wet behind the years, as my grandmother loved to say, I thought writing and art were all about creativity and self expression. If I were to be a writer or an artist I could be free to be me. I could share my special version of my special world and tada! I would be published and hang my work in galleries for the whole world to see. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. But that's not really the way the world works. We learn early on that in the real world there are gatekeepers. There are rules. We have to knock politely and beg or storm right through them to get past those who would keep the talent out. When we are young and eager the gatekeepers, ie. editors, gallery owners and critics, seem cruel. We think: They don't understand us. They wouldn't know talent if they fell over it. And mostly, we are wrong. 
I have had some success both with my writing and my art. I am not famous and never will be. That's okay. I do get paid for my work and every week hundreds, even thousands of people read what I write and see the drawings I do. And yes, I have to pass everything by an editor. I have worked with many editors over the years and I have learned something useful and often inspiring from all of them. I have especially learned from the ones I thought were wrong. Guess what? They were right. After my initial shock at my own wrongness I agreed to changes that did indeed make the piece better. Now I'm just glad they keep me from embarrassing myself. It is hard to read your own work objectively. It is even harder to edit it.

I will probably never be Zen about my writing or my art but thank heavens the people who read, edit, publish and show my work are pretty Zen about their jobs and in dealing with people like me.


Carolyn said...

And you probably have no idea just how many readers your writing touches just because you were willing to go through the editorial process. Your columns and drawings are amazing and truly enrich my life--THANK YOU!

Mary said...

thank you, Carolyn ;-) I love writing and illustrating my columns and it is really nice to hear from someone who reads them. It means a lot.