I have a friend who is an expert at polishing rocks, pebbles, and stones. People from all walks of life bring him their found nuggets. The stone-polisher takes them and decides if they are worthy. If they are, he will polish them to make them more beautiful than before, perhaps maybe turning the rock or stone into a gem.
His is a somewhat lonely occupation. Most of the time, the stone-polisher will work unaccompanied when he is polishing. Sometimes, depending on the number of pebbles and rocks he must polish on short notice, he might work with others who help polish stones. When he does, he is usually in charge of everyone in the shop working with him. He has also taught others his techniques in polishing rocks and stones.
The reason he is in charge of the others who polish stones is because he is very experienced at his job. No one comes close to polishing stones as well as my friend. When he is finished polishing, those who have had their pebbles or nuggets polished by the stone-polisher know they are holding near-perfect gemstones when he is finished.
Many, who later see the gemstones, realize the value of his efforts. Probably no one appreciates his work more than some of those whose rocks and stones he has polished.
Over the years, I have gathered rocks and stones and allowed the stone-polisher to see a few of them. He has set to work on some of my rocks and I am always amazed at how well they looked after his work. Some of the stones and rocks I thought were near perfect, he made better.
The story of the stone-polisher, of course, is a metaphor for writing and editing. The rocks, stones, and pebbles are short stories, magazine articles, and novels. The stone-polisher is an editor.
I have known many editors over the years I have been writing. Many were good, most merely average, and some hacks actually made me wonder how they achieved their editorial positions.
And then there is the stone-polisher…
When it comes to writing, many authors believe they have the perfect manuscript when they finish the last sentence. With all but a very few manuscripts, this just is not so. Then they become defensive when someone recommends they should have a professional look over and possibly enhance their work.
Here is a tip for young writers – do not become defensive when an editor recommends changes to the piece. You should embrace the opportunity to learn and advance your skills as a wordsmith. Ask the editor, “Why?” if you are unable to see the merits of the change. Learn!
If the writer is an inexperienced author who wishes to begin a serious career in writing, working with editors is necessary. In the aviation business, the Yoda-types are checkpilots who determine the worth of an aviator. In the writing field, the Yodas are the editors.
Sometimes I have this image of the stone-polisher with his ears sticking straight out from his head from behind his computer, or with pencil in hand over hard copy. Then he looks up, and in his Yoda-like voice, says, “Make better you write, I will.”
And then I find myself working harder to make my writing better.
©2012 J. Clark
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