Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Editor: a metaphor

I'm watching an author working on a new book, and I'm realizing it feels a bit like helping a child learn to ride a bike. It's that same feeling of WANTING to be able to help, to be able to somehow give precise instructions about exactly how to conquer something that seems so daunting at the outset, but realizing that mostly all you can do is run along on the sidelines, keeping pace and cheering loudly. Cheering even more loudly in spite of false starts and pitfalls and skinned knees. Cheering through the spots where it seems like it would be much easier just to say, "But I can't!!" and give up. And then, watching the wheels begin to turn, sloooowly, and the wobbles begin and knowing, even if the author doesn't at this very moment, that the wobbling is, actually, a very very early stage of mastery.

And between you and me? When this author has finished writing her story (I know she'll get there!), I bet you'll never be able to guess there was any wobbling at all!


  1. Ok, so just by reading this post I can see you're not just an editor. You write, as well. And just as well as any writer out there. (Yes, this is praise, but it's not false and you've got to have praise in one of your first comments!)

    I hope someday to master my prose, just like any writer. Hopefully I won't break my arm like I did when learning to ride my bike!

  2. What a beautiful metaphor! You made me smile. Thanks.

  3. Learning to ride a bike was one of the most exhilarating experiences I had as a child. Once I realized I was gaining control of the wobbles, I started to feel the wind's embrace and raced to find the end of it. I'll remember that as I write. Nice metaphor, Molly! :)

  4. I'm writing a kids book right now for Gibbs Smith and I know EXACTLY what you mean. I'm a book designer, and authoring is new to me, so I feel like I'm riding on training wheels (I do have a journalism degree). My editor is incredible...she's a cheerleader and a friend. I feel so fortunate I'm working with her!