There’s a certain satisfaction that writers derive from publishing unedited content. It’s the ultimate sense of validation; a reinforcement that it’s possible to be both compelling and grammatically correct. It separates the good writers from the great writers.
That’s what I used to think. If a mentor, peer or professor left my work untouched, it was fantastic. If they edited or made changes, it was complete garbage.
In grade school, I’d relish at the return of a term paper with no marks except for a red “A” at the top. During my college internships, I’d draft articles that would get published with no edits or changes. After I graduated from college, I began writing for the technology section of a web-based publication. I was allowed back-end access to the website and was encouraged to immediately publish what I had written, no editor necessary.
When I began working as an account coordinator at Griffin two and half years ago, I volunteered to draft any copy I could get my hands on (after all, I was used to publishing my own content without a second pair of eyes). With previous experience in technology, journalism and public relations, I over-confidently expected the same treatment from my new employer.
I have never been more wrong. The agency’s President & Founder Bob Griffin, a thirty-year-old industry veteran, had many edits and plenty of changes. He’d re-arrange my introduction paragraphs, question my sentence structure, and ask me to rewrite my headlines. I couldn’t help but think that all previous validation from professors and publications were serendipitous coincidences; falsities that confirmed a deluded sense of purpose. His edits made me question my own ability.
During those first few months, my mindset was clouded by years of ego inflation. It was juvenile to believe that a 22-year-old did not need an editor; but through my education and previous work experience, I was indirectly taught that edits meant imperfection. Edits did not lead to a perfect A. Edits are for people who need them.
This mentality is harmful and extremely limiting. I know now that every writer, no matter how experienced, skilled or talented, needs an editor (and better yet- they should love their editor). Their editor is the reason they improve. In life, there’s no change without pressure and the same goes for writers. Without an editor, there is no improvement. How can a writer hone their skills without a critical reader explaining what does and doesn’t work?
And beyond the writer, an unedited piece is simply not as good as it could be. Every piece of writing, no matter how big or small, cannot reach it’s full potential without edit. Unedited writing is like a natural-born athlete who never bothered to train. Yeah, it’s good, but it could be great. With effort, it could be the best there ever was. So, if a writer’s true purpose is to create beautiful, moving work, then they should embrace whatever feedback, edits and changes (no matter how harsh, abrasive or offending) make it better. Pride needs to take a backseat for the sake of our work.
I’m thankful for honest edits, and I am severely skeptical of any publication or website that doesn’t edit their writers. I am a much better writer than I used to be thanks to Bob’s edits, and in a few years, I know that I will look back and say the same about today.