Many of you consider yourselves left-brained “numbers people.” But that doesn’t mean you can’t be a more confident writer or content shaper. The two skills are not mutual exclusive. In fact, you didn’t get to where you are today without having solid right-brained communication skills.
What’s amazing to me is that many of you think nothing of standing at the podium before hundreds of people – bright lights and cameras blazing — yet freeze up at the keyboard when it’s just you alone with your thoughts.
The written word comes naturally to some of you, but for others, starting a grocery list from scratch is daunting, let alone a blog post, an article or heaven forbid a book chapter. At the same time, once someone else has put down their words on a page, you slow-starters become eagle-eyed editors with red pen (or track changes) flying with revisions. Meanwhile those of you whose prose flows easily get the cold sweats when it comes time to condensing your words into the narrow confines of a blog post, short article or presentation. Oh, it’s so painful leaving your brilliant prose on the cutting-room floor, right?
Editor vs. writer
To get to the next level of content proficiency, I’ve found it helpful to know whether you’re more of a writer or an editor. Most people have elements of both skills in their DNA, but it’s good to know where you fall on the spectrum. See helpful quiz below.
A writer is typically charged with the creative task of putting words on a blank page, whether for the purpose of informing, persuading or entertaining. An editor may be slightly more analytical, as he or she must review, manage and guide a particular work or series of works to successful publication. Writers create, using the right side of the brain. Editors analyze, utilizing the left side of the brain. But again, most of you have developed both sides of the brain in your work with clients. Why not in your writing?
Editor as coach
Writer-editor relationships are deeply personal and the editor must walk a fine line between mentoring, coaching and psychoanalyzing. To work well, the writer-editor relationship must be built on mutual respect. The writer must trust the editor’s fresh eyes and insight. The editor must trust the writer’s voice on a deadline and acknowledge the writer, not the editor, is the true subject matter expert.
Many of you played competitive sports growing up. I’ve found the writer-editor relationship similar to the athlete-coach relationship. I’m sure you had a special coach who made a big impact on your life. An editor/coach’s job is to help the writer/athlete get the very best out of themselves with burning them out or constantly berating them. At the same time, writers can get better if they have a thin skin or simply aren’t coachable.
Whether it’s a blog post on a website or a novel, most of the published written products that people encounter in their daily lives have been polished by an editor. The editor is the last line of defense in determining that the writer’s words are ready to be published or made public. Just what makes the words publish-ready depends in part on the format — for instance, a blog post might rely on short sentences and to-the-point language while a novel might use longer sentences and more descriptive, flowery speech. Deciding what is appropriate based on the media format, its audience, and its purpose is also part of the editor’s job. These experts don’t just proofread for errors in spelling or grammar but also make decisions on content (what to include and what to cut) and style.
Are you more of a writer or an editor?
Here’s a helpful quiz adapted from Gray Grant communications:
- Do you tend to leave your work-in-progress in the bottom of your desk drawer for weeks at a time, hoping the editing fairies will work on it while you’re living the rest of your life?
- Even if you have a hard time getting started writing, do you find that time always slips away while you write?
- If given the choice between editing something you’ve written OR reading an incredibly boring book, would you always choose the reading?
- When writing, do you naturally focus on telling stories? Stories make writing more interesting – not just for the reader but for the writer as well.
- Do you never worry about what your readers are going to think of your writing ability? While others fret about the quality of their prose, you’re still able to write as though it’s no more difficult than typing.
- Do you naturally use similes and metaphors? Persuasive writers understand that writing becomes more interesting if they can work in lots of intriguing comparisons.
- When Microsoft Word puts a red squiggly line underneath a spelling error you’ve made, are you able to ignore it until you’ve finished writing the piece?
- Does it take you 10 times longer to edit that you had anticipated? Perfectionists are terrible at gauging the time a job will take.
SCORE: How many of these traits above sound like you? If you scored 6 or above, you’re most likely a natural editor more than a writer.
- Do you have a reflexive urge to edit just about every sentence as soon as you’ve written it? This is called editing while you write.
- Do you procrastinate when it comes time to writing? Would you rather vacuum behind the refrigerator, have a colonoscopy or work on your income taxes than write a first draft?
- Do you spend time doing so much research you feel you could produce an encyclopedia on the topic…but hate to start summarizing?
- Do you usually read your own writing out loud when you edit it? Good editors naturally read their writing out loud. This is one of the best possible ways to learn what you need to fix.
- Does it take you 10 times longer to write than you had anticipate? Perfectionists are terrible at gauging the time a job will take.
- Do you obsess on structure, certain that if you could only divine the right organization, your work-in-progress would more or less write itself? Ah, the promise of a magic bullet.
SCORE: How many of these traits above sound like you? If you scored 5 or above, you’re most likely a natural editor more than a writer.
Whether you’re more of an editor or a writer, don’t ever tell me you cannot write or you didn’t have time to write. You didn’t get to your current level of success without being able to communicate effectively. So, like it or note you need to be a writer. Here are 8 keys to finding your inner voice.
What’s your take? I’d love to hear from you.
#writervseditor, #contentcreation, #persuasivewriting