Traditional Publishing

Are editors evil?

By Bonnie Boots
Full-time writer and part-time designer – Monday December 19, 2005

When shopping for my Halloween costume, it's no drooling vampire or motley mummy for me, but the true embodiment of terror, a leering, lurching editor!

Admit it. You think editors are the scariest creatures in the haunted woods of writing. We all do. That's why I invited writers to address the theme "Editors Are Evil" in any manner they wished – extra credit given for good humour. Entries in every form rolled in, from poetry and prose to ransom notes, and what wicked fun these writers had skewering those evil editors!

But amid the fun and fantasy, one irritated little email bristled. "I'm a hardworking editor," it said. "Are you saying I'm evil?"

Certainly not, dear sir. Statistically, less than 10 per cent of editors are truly evil. The rest are merely underpaid people that once aspired to literature and art but ended up editing articles about celebrity break-ups. That sort of work may wither the soul and curdle the brain of someone sensitive to words and language, but it doesn't make them evil.

I've done a stint as an editor, so I have some insight into this man's moan. I know his pay is too low, his stress too high. His passion and his patience are eroded by daily battles with bean counters. He winces when sending form letters rejecting people that can really write. But here's a fact: if he takes precious time to explain in detail why he's not choosing a submission, the writer will write back, arguing point by point. It's a merry-go-round, and the only ticket off is a form letter.

An editor is a business manager. The work is all about bottom-line profits. A writer is an initiator. The work is all about creating and exploring and never about profits, until the electric bill is overdue.

Writers are not, by nature, business people. What we are, by nature, is sensitive. So when we send off a query, a submission or a finished work and are either ignored or rejected, it doesn't occur to us that the reasons are beyond ourselves. It does occur to us that editors are trying to torture us.

We imagine all sorts of scary things, making ourselves sick at heart because we have no real way of knowing why our work was rejected. In the absence of information, fear takes over and we begin to think editors are evil.

I know only one sure-fire way to ward off fear, and that is with laughter. With the "Editors Are Evil" contest I invited writers to discover the transformative power of making fun of your fears. Make fun they did, in the most creative, imaginative and inspired ways.

Freed from the need to please an editor, these writers unleashed their creative minds and produced a torrent of witty writing. Poems and stories flowed in from America and Australia, from Singapore and Greece, all giving voice to our communal fears and frustrations with editors.

It was a powerful experience, for them and for me. I learned that the writer's struggle with feelings of insecurity and powerlessness is the same around the world. And writers learned that laughing at those struggles is better than brooding. Laughter opens up the heart and the mind; sweeps out the dark corners and lets a clean, fresh breeze blow through.

Remember this next time you send off a submission. We writers are not powerless. And editors are not evil. We are all incredibly complex individuals trying to survive in a truly bewildering world. The best survival tool we have is hidden in the corners of our mouths. It only takes a smile to reveal it.

About the Author

Bonnie Boots is a full-time writer and part-time designer. Her wise and witty T-shirt designs allow writers to proudly parade their talent by wearing their "Write Side Out!"