Monday, September 21, 2009

Why Are Writers the Only Stupid Artists?

Did Michaelangelo need help carving David? Did Beethoven need help composing his symphonies? Did Da Vinci need help painting the Mona Lisa? Did Schulz need help drawing Peanuts?

Why do writers, then, “need” editors?

Ask any publisher and they’ll say, “Good editors help bring the book to life. They can help the writer shape it, and they know the market so they can make the book the best it can be to go out and meet the readers.”

Ask editors. “We spot errors. We make sure everything’s in the right order. We trim here, cut there, compress elsewhere, and make the book more readable. We get the book in its best shape and make sure the finishing touches are put on.”

Writers must all be stupid, to need editors. Is not editing part of the writing process? So writers -- and all agree on this -- are the last ones you can trust with the work they produce. An outside, objective eye is needed. Writers are too close to their work to see it clearly. An editor provides perspective.

It is incredible to contemplate how good other forms of art would be if they had the benefit of editors.

“Hey, Michaelangelo, maybe instead of their fingers not quite touching, man and God could high five each other on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling.”

“Psst. Beethoven. Hey, you deaf or what? Listen, you can’t put a chorus in your Ninth Symphony. You should know better by now the public won’t stand for that kind of stuff. And that poem, what, saccharine nonsense; who wants an Ode to Joy in the middle of their music?”

“Da Vinci, seriously, pick one, smile or frown. This kind of ambiguity will just confuse the public and they’ll never know what the hell La Gianconda’s thinking.”

Yes, editors sure were needed in those other arts, it’s obvious how much better some trained, experienced, and objective advice would have made those flawed masterpieces we all know.

Writers, being stupider than composers, painters, or sculptors, have benefitted and the record shows it. There are so many superbly edited books that no single one particularly stands out. Year after year we see such a consistently high product being produced by editors that it begins to matter not at all what raw material the mere writers hand in.

Were it not for editors, where would writers be?

Standing on their own two feet, apparently, and responsible for what they did, or did not, accomplish in their work. Thank heavens they never have to suffer such an indignity.

Why are writers so stupid? Because they can be.

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