Working in words

Today I came across an interview with veteran editor Tammy Ditmore. The interviewer asked Tammy what she would do if she weren’t an editor, and she replied:

It would have to involve words. I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was eight, and I feel I have lived my dream, even if I don’t often get a byline. For me, editing is “working in words”—allowing me to focus on language in ways I find deeply satisfying.

I, too, have wanted to be a writer since I was eight (or perhaps even younger). And I, too, find editing deeply satisfying—which comes as a surprise to a lot of folks.

When I introduce myself as a writer and editor, people inevitably ask, “So what do you write?” Almost no one wants to know about what I edit. They seem to have a “Those who can’t write, edit” mentality, assuming that editing is just a stopover on the road toward Writerdom, a plan B or sorry substitute for the author-who-might-have-been.

I won’t lie: editing is not what I envisioned myself doing (what eight-year-old would?). I thought I would see my name on the cover of a real live book in a real live bookstore one day. But now I have seen my name inside a real live book inside a real live bookstore, and it is a truly amazing thing.

My work matters to authors and to readers. It is creative, engrossing, collaborative, and productive. I still hope to see my name on a cover—many covers, actually—as an editor and writer both. But even if that doesn’t happen much, I still know I’m doing what I’ve always wanted to do: working in words.


Update: Apparently I’m not the only one thinking about this issue this week.

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