He’s the kind of editor your mother warned you about.
When I first inquired about writing for him, plenty of people tried to talk me out of it…He’s tough. He’s only used one writer more than once. He doesn’t like anything. He makes everyone cry.
I admit there was a small part of me– a very small, overly confident part–that thought I might have a different experience. After all, I’d been a journalist for over twenty years. I’d tracked down a sniper, had doors slammed in my face, and held a grieving mother who’d just lost her child. How tough could this guy be?
My first experience working with him was benign. So benign that I wondered what in the heck everyone had been warning me about.
Not only did he print my article exactly as I’d written it, he gave me the cover story. I held my breath–maybe those other writers were right, and he wouldn’t use me again. But he did. He gave me two assignments for the very next issue.
And then the troubles began. This editor definitely had his own style, and it wasn’t mine. Whenever he assigned an article, it was already written in his head. It didn’t seem to matter how many questions I asked, or how often I re-read the assignment description–I couldn’t make the final product match up with his vision.
My stories were shredded, again and again and again. The very thing I took the most pride in–being able to craft a great opening sentence and take my readers on a journey–was usually the primary target of his deadly red pen.
I’d always been blessed with editors who loved my work and who never uttered even the tiniest bit of criticism. All I’d heard for the past twenty years was how clean my copy was and what a joy I was to work with. I was woefully unprepared for having story after story ripped to bits.
I stopped looking at the copies the editor sent me, because I didn’t want to see the sad remains of my work. I kept thinking each time I wrote for him would be the last, because who on earth would want a writer that required so much editing? But he kept calling me, and I kept writing for him, even though I nearly had an anxiety attack every time.
He recently assigned another cover story, and that’s when it finally dawned on me.
His criticism had nothing to do with the value of my work.
Of course my stories would never match the ones in his head, but he obviously liked my writing enough to keep hiring me. This is a tough, tough editor–if he didn’t value my work, he’d move on to someone else.
Criticism doesn’t always mean what we think. You haven’t necessarily done something wrong–you just haven’t done it the way someone else would.
It’s not personal. It’s not an attack. It’s not a grand, sweeping statement about your worth as a writer.
Sometimes it’s just a difference of opinion.
Do you handle criticism well? Have you ever found it valuable? What was the most valuable criticism you ever received?
The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!