Why Every Writer Needs an Editor

An acquaintance of mine, after finding out what I do for a living, asked me if I considered myself a writer. She’s an English professor, who has devoted her life to studying writers. So when I said, “I love writing, but I think I lean more toward being an editor,” she seemed surprised. When you’re a kid, you never say, “When I grow up, I want to be an editor!”

Everyone wants to be a writer--but every writer needs a good editor. 

When I tell people I’m an editor, they don’t really know what it means. If they have some idea about the profession, it’s that we spend our time looking for misplaced commas and typos. Of course, we do a bit of that, but in reality, that’s what copy editors and proofreaders are for. My time is spent assigning articles, and then making sure that the writers have hit the mark. I’m usually editing articles about business and technology, which means there are a few things I’m looking for.

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A Writing Shed of One’s Own

I am smitten with Britain’s favorite gardener, Monty Don. A couple of years ago, I had no idea who he was, but then Netflix started airing Big Dreams, Small Spaces and I was hooked. But I’m not here to talk to you about Monty Don’s gardening prowess, his suspenders, or his loping walk. I’m here to discuss his writing garden–a lovely little woodland with a shed at the back where Monty types out his books.

Monty Don in his writing shed.
Monty Don is his writing shed.

The first time I ever thought, “Gee, I sure would like a writing shed” was when I read John Irving’s Last Night at Twisted River. The main character talks about the little shack he writes in on a remote island. Then, several years later, Pinterest and tiny houses became a part of my life. Before I knew it, I was very seriously coveting a writing shed of my own.

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Lean Out and Get a Life

I am a working woman in my 30s who has never read Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I’m a rare bird, but now that you’ve spotted me, you can check me off your list.

Like a lot of women, I had a very basic, visceral reaction to Lean In that made me an instant skeptic. For me, though, the problem was less about the privileged position Sandberg was writing from at the time, and more about the fact that she was using her prominent position to tell us all to work harder–as if Americans weren’t already working themselves to death.

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