I’ve noticed something disturbing lately: Nobody seems to think editing is worth paying for.
I get it—we all want to save our money for the exciting things, like good food and travel. But at the same time that we’re downgrading editing (most of the freelance jobs I see online barely pay above minimum wage and demand many years of experience), more people than ever are declaring themselves writers.
What the hell is going on?
How can so many people claim to love literature and say they want to help produce it, but not see the essential role that editors play?
Somehow, we’ve created a society where deciding you ARE something—a soccer player, a cook, a writer—means you expect everyone else to accept you as such.
Maybe it traces back to that trend of giving out trophies for “participation” instead of winning. We’ve bred whole generations of people who don’t understand that you’re supposed to work hard and learn and practice a skill (like writing) before you can be successful.
These days, everyone just seems to be taking the shortcut: They dash off whatever text happens to run through their brain (that’s the “participation”) and then they upload it to Amazon and consider themselves published (that’s the “trophy”).
They skip the entire middle part that’s supposed to come between choosing to be a writer and actually becoming one: They forget to do the WORK—you know, learning to write, revising their drafts, and having someone who actually knows about literature (that is, an editor) polish their rough draft into a gem.
Even the people who care about writing don’t seem to be willing to work at it anymore. Almost every writing-related meme or post I see on social media has at least one spelling/punctuation/grammatical error.
We’re living in a world where emojis and text-message abbreviations pass for “language” and where the masters of REAL language are treated as irrelevant.
And in case you haven’t noticed, our world is a mess.
In my opinion, the two trends—devaluing editors and destroying the world—are related. And I think it’s time to fix things, so here is my plea:
Treat editors with the respect we deserve.
Pay us more than the part-time teenage fry cook at McDonald’s.
We are trained, skilled professionals, and our job is more important than any other out there today.
(I’d argue that “heart surgeon” might be slightly more important, but frankly, if we all got off our asses, put down the fast food, and tore ourselves away from Netflix once in a while to exercise, most of a surgeon’s job would quickly become obsolete.)
Yes, the editor’s job is important: We editors are preserving a language that is rapidly devolving into little more than hieroglyphic, emoji-based shorthand. Without us, in maybe 20 years, it’s likely we’ll only be able to communicate through screens and thumbs and perhaps the occasional angry grunt when the battery dies on our devices.
Editors are the only ones who can keep language—and the world—going. The editors’ red pens are the only thing standing between us and anarchy.
Save the editors, save the world.