Posted in Notes from the Field

Doubt and Tyranny Battle it out

February 3, 2019

My first attempt at editing turned out pretty good. Until I began to doubt whether I possessed the ability to assess good writing. Then it occurred to me as editor I get to decide what’s good. I definitely see an editorial tyrant in the making: “It’s good when I say it’s good!”

As promised, I put it in an envelope to be read in a year, so I could get my future self’s assessment of my current work. Since I didn’t want it to languish in a folder, forgotten, I put it on my calendar to read in one year. Of course, my hard drive promptly went out and along with it the calendar entry. Hopefully, the computer technicians will be able to recover all of my data. Here’s hoping and praying.

That fiasco has made me rethink my meager use of the cloud. More Dropbox® and calendar syncing coming up.

The second attempt at editing hasn’t gone as well as the first.  One, it’s much longer.  It didn’t seem so long when I read it.  Decided to use it anyway as I will be editing features and those are usually long.  Since I’m going to have to do it someday, it might as well be now.  Second, I have no idea what the author was trying to say.  At one point in the article the author says, “So, you see,” and I’m, “No, I don’t see.”  This is one area the editing books stress:  the writing has to make the reader see.  I think that’s the problem with this article: it says a lot, but doesn’t show a lot.  There are no examples backing up the claims.  Only the same assertions stated different ways.

Of course doubt is always in play.  Maybe it’s me. “Maybe it’s clear as a bell and I just can’t see it.”    I tire of playing that game pretty quickly.  Then it’s back to: “You’re the editor, if you think it’s not clear, then it’s not clear.”  In a fully functioning magazine there would be a number of readers to give feedback on an article, so I wouldn’t have to depend on my own judgment as much.  If they didn’t have the problems I did, then they could tell me why.  But for now I think Doubt will continue to accompany me on this journey for a while longer.   

So far Tyranny laying down the law by stating, “It’s going to be this way” is the only method I’ve found to counteract Doubt.  And I’m not sure it is wise.  I do want some doubt if only to keep me from barreling ahead when I should be taking stock.  Instead of bemoaning Doubt, perhaps I should learn to use her.  Didn’t John Bunyan’s’ The Pilgrim’s Progress deal with all of this?  If that’s the case, then it should be mandatory reading for anyone starting a ministry.  Just so people will know they’ll be running into all sorts of characters on the way.


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