Creative Potential & the Editor

At the start of each new stage of editing, editors expand their comprehension of the evolving book. They also understand more deeply their author’s creative capacity because of what they’ve achieved in the latest writing and revising.

On the basis of that combined, greater comprehension of author and book, the editor makes additional suggestions for improvement.

Editorial thinking and recommendations have a dual purpose: 1) helping the author fully realize the book’s creative potential, and 2) teaching the author how to become a better writer for their lifetime careers.

There’s a duality as well in the nature of the thinking engaged in by the editor:

1) All the editorial ideas for improvement that the author could have thought of on their own. That they haven’t yet, at the time of the editing, is for many reasons. What matters is that such thinking is within their authorial function.

2) All the ideas conceived by the editor that the author, by function, could NOT have imagined or perceived independently. Had they not been conceived and described by the editor, they wouldn’t have occurred at all.

The editor’s ability to contribute in this form defines the difference in the nature of their functions.

Because the author is the creator, the book comes within them. Therefore, they have a more profound comprehension of their writing and abilities than the editor can ever attain.
Simultaneously and inherently, the editor gains their comprehension of book and author “from the outside, in,” which gives them a unique perspective.

When the creative and editorial perspectives are combined, an evolving totality of understanding is achieved that guides them throughout the writing and editing.

Here’s a simple metaphor for the differences in the creative and editorial functions:

Let’s say that a particular author’s creative capacities and book in combination are “their body.” They can see almost all of their talents and the evolving book except for most of what is on their “back.” Perception of the rest requires an unattainable perspective.
The editor, standing behind, can see, understand, and explain, all that is on their “back” that the author can’t. At the same time, because they’re “behind,” they can’t see all the author can.

That’s why the author and editor functions are complementary.

Editors understand that authors initially do all they thought they could. But editors also “know” that authors can do more. When the newly envisioned creative potential of author and book are combined in the editor’s thinking and notes, their power is almost explosive, and certainly upwardly spiraling. The better the author becomes as writer, the more they’re capable of doing with their book. The more ambitious the author’s ideas and the editor’s suggestions for improvement, the greater the creative opportunities for the author’s development.

How much more the particular author will become able to do in evolving their book and themselves as the creative/editorial process continues, they and the editor will discover along the way.

Categories: Substantive Edit, Writing

Author: Paul McCarthy