I always had tons and tons of ideas of what I would write about ever since I decided I would be a writer in my youth. Writing is hard work though I discovered. The ideas are really just the beginning. You must have the time and the inclination to put the words down in some kind of coherent fashion. Therein lies some of the hardest work and where a GOOD editor is invaluable, but they are so very rare I have learned. I have begun to believe that many editors are frustrated writers.
I write on Medium to make sure I just keep putting the ideas out there. That I don’t stop is more important than most anything else. Now DECADES after deciding that I would be a writer I understand that the thing that writers do is WRITE. They do not write to make money. They do not write for fame. They do not write for their audience. They write because they must because the ideas will not let you rest. They will not stop bouncing around in your head until you force them out on to the page …one way or another.
Still, I would be lying were I to say that it would not be nice to get paid or to have a following. I put it out on Medium with some hopeful naivete that it will be read and appreciated. When I am disabused of that fantasy by the Medium stats, I occasionally will submit work that has less than one hundred reads. I feel I can legitimately say the writing has not been “published” with so little traffic on it.
Recently I wrote something I thought was amusing. It was mostly based upon joking among my sons and I as we watched Premier League football. I took An American Guide to Premier League Nicknames and submitted it to an online sports magazine. I changed the title slightly to an Amusing Guide to Premier League Nicknames and moved on.
I woke up yesterday to an email that the sporting magazine had published it. I was excited just like any writer is when someone with access and power puts your writing out there. It is the little bit of validation keeping the hopeful flame alive you will not forever labor in obscurity. I clicked on the link they sent with anticipation.
Imagine my surprise when I see a different title An Interpretive Guide (for Americans) to the Premier League, but a title change without correspondence from the editor is not THAT unusual. However, when I read it, I felt it had been changed quite significantly and was no longer quite as funny. I got the byline, but the writing did not really feel like my own.
I kind of expect some back and forth when there are changes of this significance to my writing, but I have learned that some editors are indeed frustrated writers. They are unable to create from NOTHING. The power of a writer is immense. Filling up nothingness with ideas and words of semi-coherence is the power to create worlds and affect hearts and minds. The pen surely is mightier than the sword.
I feel better now that I have written this. I will let whoever comes along here compare what I wrote versus what the editor did to it and decide for themselves. I only ask that you tell me which one you liked better. Feedback is very useful and criticism is fuel for the writer.
Don't get mad. Write some more. It will help. Exercise the POWER. The power to create something from nothing is envied. As such there will be times that the jealousy of others will lead to things like the aforementioned. Sometimes even your writing will be stolen. The first time it happened to me I knew I was doing the right thing. I realized I was producing something that others wanted to steal and therefore it gave it value.
I busted on the thief and got a “margin” byline. He was an editor of an online finance magazine. He went on to tell me how he could give me exposure and he was doing me a favor. I chuckled and declined to write anything further for him. I was giddy with joy. I almost felt sorry for him. After all, I was quite confident I could write something new, but clearly he could not.
I could go ahead and write more stuff. I did not need to steal anything from anyone. I had the ideas and therefore I had the power. It was a sea change for me because I knew finally I was producing “something” not just drivel. AND I knew I could produce more.
So in short, the answer is NO. All editors are not frustrated writers. Some are really editors. They will help you make your writing better, picking out errors and foggy ideas that need clarification. I love the editor that asks, “What did you mean here?”
The question means they read it. It means they are interested in grooming YOUR ideas, not their own. If you find an editor like that they are worth every penny you pay them. In the meantime, write Baby!