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Friday, May 8, 2009

Thoughts on Being a Freelancer Supplemental

Writer and Editor

A couple of week ago, I said a writer is "someone who knows words and knows language and gets turned on by using both well (and by seeing other people do the same thing). A writer is someone who is curious about a lot of different things, and knows ways to satisfy that curiosity--how to research, who to ask, and what to ask in order to get the right information to share with readers."

An editor is a lot like a writer but different. While a writer's passion is words, an editor's passion is text. A writer uses words for a lot of different reasons--to convey information, to explore ideas, to persuade, to incite, to define the world the writer inhabits, to create meaning. Text is what results from the effort to do those things. But text usually is not an end in itself.

An editor understands there's a special relationship between text and its intended audience. Text without readers, that is text that exists outside a community, has no power. It can't inform. It can't incite. It can define nothing. (Just an aside here. A writer can also be the sole audience for what is written.)

The editor is like a bridge between writer and reader. The editor's first task is to make the effort to understand exactly what the writer is saying and what the writer is trying to do by saying it. And the second task is just as important. The editor needs to understand how the audience is going to respond to the text and whether or not that response is going to be the one the writer wants. Then it becomes the editor's job to bring the two things -- the writer's intent and the audience's response -- as close together as possible.

The jobs are different. But one quality identifies both -- a passion for language, including a passion for using it well. It's no surprise that the best writers and the best editors often do both tasks very well.


  1. Lovely. Thanks for a brilliant post; just in time for my first real freelance job!