Linda Henry

Thatwhich

Editor/writer or writer/editor: Who will slash whom?

May 16, 2015

There have always been two sides to my work: writing and editing. When I was a freelance magazine writer, I also copyedited academic manuscripts. In the editorial positions I’ve held since then, I’ve tended to wear both hats, although rarely at the same time as that would mess up my hair. But for my personal writing—like these words you are reading now, if I can ever get them to pass muster—the roles blur as I type. The word “Backspace” on my keyboard is almost completely worn off. My editor is silencing my writer.

Yes, it’s her job to be judgmental, to make sure the writer is getting it right. As I’ve been working on this would-be blog post for the past week, she has slashed and burned many paragraphs. I tried just now to give you an example, but she backspaced me. Plus, we/me have been at odds, contradicting each other over what used to be common ground: no exclamation points ever, for example. But what children’s book author doesn’t use exclamation points?!? And she isn’t as nimble with her AP Style versus APA versus Chicago Manual as she once was. There, I said it.

Truth is, I’m getting tired of my editorial sanctimoniousness. (I just looked up “sanctimonious” to make sure I was using it properly; that’s how sanctimonious I can be.) The skill that has helped me become a better writer often has me thinking “Why bother? It won’t be any good.”

On the other hand, this blog (and it’s starting to feel more like I might actually post it) began as something completely different. Maybe the reason I’ve struggled with my personal writing so much lately is that I’m encumbered by the need to get it perfectly right. It’s difficult to be authentic if you’re worried about letting your imperfections show. And Little Miss Perfect messes up plenty.

Turns out the editorial “we” had something to get off our chest. (That’s singular, not plural. Don’t want readers envisioning me as a double-chested split personality.)

Selected Works

Essays
My daughter likes depressing books. “Someone dies in the first chapter,” Grace says gleefully of a novel she can’t put down. Maybe this inclination comes naturally, growing up with the ghost of a sister she never knew. 
In which my brilliant son prevails against middle-school bullies. Adapted from "A Voice Not My Own"