On Having an Editor

Mountains are not born looking perfect.

This might sound ridiculous, because mountains are not born. Not in the ways people and animals and ideas are born. But in many ways, mountains are born the same as humans, with immense pressure and pushing and the eruption of something new from things already existing.

Or perhaps it is us who are born like mountains.

From the moment of our first birth into this world, we are constantly being born. With pressure and friction between our insides and our surroundings, we continue to grow and wear down and develop and sometimes erupt like a volcano. Our thoughts and ideas swell and harden, our skin worn away and releasing new layers every 27 days.

We are mountains. Walking, talking, breathing mountains.

As writers, we sit down and create mountains with our words. Pens and keys and the whisper of pages turning carry our thoughts from our fingertips, our lips, to the rest of the world. Each time we write, we build a new mountain range, pushing together the concepts of living and dying and breathing and drowning and making something majestic.

But mountains are not born of friction alone.

After the initial thrust, the shifting of one tectonic body above another, comes the caress. The wind, the rain, the sunlight beating down on earth newly exposed to the world. Like the first draft of a poem, fresh mountains require a soft hand. The guidance and tenderness of a parent toward a child learning to walk. In our early writing stages, we can cover sharp edges with foam, place pillows around the small space of our desks, and coddle our work into it's birthing. But writing, like a toddler, has legs of it's own. Sometimes it will break free of our guidance. Sometimes it will rebel, turn furious corners, run headlong into uncharted territory.

Mountains do not ask the surrounding ground for permission to be born.

Once they are created, once the water and the air and the fire embrace them, they become of the earth. Unlike words that are published on a blog or in a book, from the moment of their first birth mountains are evolving. Mountains shift over millennia. Unlike our published work, the Himalayas are still changing. There was a moment, the instant of creation, the seconds just after being born, when no one knew how the mountain looked. This split second of ideation, the tumbling of trees and sand and stone, creates your rough draft. The spill of language from your heart into the world. The birthing of each new work. And then, the world starts turning again. Like the pause between an exhale ... and the next new breath.

We are the mountains being born, and we are the elements that shape them.

It is the mountains who have faced the greatest elements that strike the deepest awe in us. Peaks that soar above the tree line, facing blizzards and scorching heat and the perpetual flood from the sky, steal our breath away. Mountains that have been honed and sharpened and cut back by the world surrounding them. We are these elements, the creators of mountains and the cultivators of good work. We examine closely our writing, poking and prodding with careful eyes. We cut back, we re-write, we skin the hides of poetry, of novels. We seek to create not just mountains, but majesty. To move our reader from base to peak, where the air is thin and complete focus is required to keep moving through, up, across. To bring their hearts and minds trekking along the mystery of our work. Taking the reader somewhere new. We ache for someone to climb the mountain of our words, but we do not wish to make them struggle.

Cultivate good writing as nature hones her mountains.

We are our biggest cheerleader and our greatest critic when it comes to being writers. Unfortunately, we are not always supportive when we need to show up to the page, and we are often not critical enough when it comes to honing and cultivating our work for publication. Like sending out an email only to discover you missed an important word, we can be blind to our shortcomings and struggles as authors. Working with an editor isn't something that can wait until a manuscript has (finally) been accepted. Beginning the process early, allowing skilled eyes to read our words and guide us through the journey of birthing mountains, gives us the freedom to learn, to begin a new mountain range sooner, to find greater success in putting our words out into the world.

Because mountains of words are made to be climbed.

It requires trust to let someone in. A vulnerability of mind and spirit to accept the honest (and critical) truth of an editor. Each one will not fit perfectly with us. It takes a certain kind of connection to find the person who can climb the mountain of your work by your side. We all have that one person we can be silent with. Finding the right editor is a test of this quiet -- Can you genuinely hear what this person has to say? Can you find the trust to listen with an open mind? And when they have finished speaking, can you stand at the base of your mountain of words and see a million new paths to the summit? A good writer-editor team is a collaboration. The right editor will carry -- at the core of their heart -- the pure intention of helping, of honing, of guiding your writing to it's purest form. To bringing the majesty of your words into the world with passion, clarity, and effective beauty.

The right editor will not tell you how to create a mountain.

The right editor will show you that Rumi was right: there truly are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground. But in this showing, the right editor will give you the tools to find the only important way to kiss the ground, to climb the mountain of your work. The only way that matters.

Yours.

I am currently accepting new clients for editing and coaching projects. You might have a body of work that needs reviewing, or an idea you're not sure how to put into action. I'd love to see if we are a good fit, and climb the mountains of your words together. Drop me a note, and let's connect!