I used to have chronic back pain. I worked long hours for a small business, and the chairs were cheap secondhand affairs, plastic with a little stained fabric padding. I was usually sitting on pins and needles by two in the afternoon. I went home every day and eased myself into bed, my muscles screaming as they released the pain and stress of the workday.
Then one day the boss asked me to work on a special project. It involved some files that weren’t kept on the server, so while he was out of the office, I sat at his desk and used his computer. I spent the entire day sitting in his chair: a masterpiece of German ergonomic engineering that must have cost thousands of dollars. It was remarkable. Everything was set up for comfort. I worked more efficiently, more fluently. My ass didn’t go numb. My back didn’t ache. I didn’t know chairs like that even existed. And my old chair felt even worse the next day, now that I knew what comfort felt like.
Now that I’m a freelance editor, I often get a strikingly similar reaction from clients who try my services. I work with clients at all levels of writing skill and interest, and they are all very gracious and appreciative. But the people who seem to get the most out of being edited, to my surprise, are the professionals. These are academics, intellectuals, people who read and research and write for a living and are justifiably proud of their skill on the page. Many of them view editing as a formality. Others see the editor as an adversary, a red-pen-wielding maniac intent on ruining their carefully crafted prose. So when it becomes a collaboration, a way of showcasing their skills, polishing away their imperfections, and making them look like superstars, they react just like I did when I tried that chair. I didn’t know it could be like this! How will I ever live without it?
If you’ve never experienced collaborative editing with an expert who is dedicated to your success, maybe it’s time you tried it. It’s tempting for authors and publishers to look at editing as optional or as a convenient place to cut costs, but once you’ve gone through the process of having your best work evaluated frankly and then elevated to a new level, you’ll never want to go back.