I’ve been working on this post with a different title in my mind for a while. I would’ve called it “Why I Call Editorial Notes Love Letters.”
I planned to say it makes things that are really hard to hear a little easier to process. That there’s no reason other than love to provide such intensive reading, such difficult (for the writer and the editor) feedback.
But that’s bullshit. There is another reason: money.
And money is why I do it.
But I’m a woman, so I’m not supposed to be motivated by money, unless it belongs to someone else and I want to be taken care of by it.
Still, love of the work is part of it. But not other people’s work, my work. I love to read and talk about stories, to look at how they work, to take them apart, to know how to fix them. I am obsessed with that work.
But the idea of a love note makes it about the other person’s work, which I almost never love. Which I rarely even like. It makes it about my quest for approval. It makes it about my smarts serving another person’s ego.
That is not healthy for anybody.
I’ve been reading this book, it’s called The Female Hero. It’s literary criticism, feminist–which means examining the literature from a feminist-cultural lens.
It explains and attacks the idea that in the stories we read, women are heroines while men are heroes. That women, even when depicted as heroes are later “fixed” or “saved” by conforming to some cultural or social norm (marriage, usually, monogamy or motherhood); when women in stories are un-tameable, they often die or go to institutions. That it’s rare when women are brave and curious and wise, and when the end of the story is something other than killing those parts of them that are “unfeminine” and heroic.
So much of what the book says about literature is familiar to me from life.
And it made me realize something about myself, about the way I think about myself as a woman: there doesn’t seem to be a bottom to how the reality of April the Woman and what I have erroneously (and decreasingly, thank god) believed to be my obligation barely resemble each other at all.
I called editorial notes love letters because I am accommodating, because it is always somebody else’s story, because I am supposed to play a supporting role (an adoring fan, a lover, a helpmate, support staff), because I hoped or believed that playing this role would make the writers I read for accept and learn from the critique I levied, always with kindness and professionalism.
But the critique is never personal or emotional for me. It is never about the person who did the writing. The most personal thing I ever say is to suggest that a client should acquire more education or read more books. Calling it a love note makes it unnecessarily and incorrectly emotionally charged.
This is my mistake and I’m going to stop making it.
Editorial Notes are letters full of the fruit of my strong, fertile mind. They are successful because I am well-read, well-educated, and willing to say hard, productive things in clear, plain language. They are valuable because I am kind and diplomatic, and because I understand the process, because long, long before I was an editor I was a writer.
They are educational letters. They are nothing, nothing about love.
An advantage to being a woman is that I have not been socialized for infallibility. I will continue to share my mistakes of thinking, even when they are big and embarrassing like this one.
Do you have a big thought pattern revelation from your past? Something a book or a song or a conversation with your oldest, dearest friend made you realize?