Column: Developing a trusting relationship with your editor is a way to ensure continuous success in your writing and creative output
A trusted editor is invaluable to creative and academic success.
Mar. 13, 2019
The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.
Maureen Dunne is a freshman journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about student life for The Maneater.
Junior year of high school, my bandmates and I booked a recording studio for an all-day session to sound out some pieces we had been developing. A few takes in, the sound engineer emerged from the booth to help one of us with an issue with our pick-ups.
“You guys are the most mature high school band I’ve ever heard,” he commented, visibly impressed. I remember looking at my friends and giggling.
“Thanks!” we responded. Little did he know, we had a secret weapon of sorts, a catalyst to our creative efforts; one undetectable to any audience, listener or even sound engineer before which we played: a trusted advisor.
Although my bandmates and I are not incredible musicians with our technical skills down or even a developed ear for harmonies (what the engineer deemed as “maturity”), we learned from and worked very closely with someone who has all those things and more. Our advisor stayed a constant in our musical lives, offering help and invaluable input to whatever we were trying to develop. He sits with us and coaches us on creating well-developed pieces in a way we are unable to on our own.
Just as I have in my musical life, everyone needs a trusted editor, coach or advisor to look out for their best interest: whether it be creative output, athletic performance or academic achievement.
For example, every team has a coach on the sidelines, at third base or in the dugout, offering insight and strategy from their vantage point out of the game. A good coach not only has the tools to get his or her team to the top, but to keep them there through cultivating a trusting relationship with their players.
As was said of John Wooden, UCLA’s most successful men’s basketball coach, who lead his team in a 664-162 record overall, “the most important man on their team was not on the court.”
Wooden had a holistic approach that focused on building relationships with his players off the court, and ensuring their on-court success was reflected in their personal lives as well. With such intimate knowledge of the men on his team, he was able to cultivate continued success.
The presence of a trusted editor is common among most successful professionals in society — from sports to music. Luciano Pavarotti, widely regarded as one of the greatest opera singers in modern history, had enduring relationships with few voice coaches all the way to the end of his career. Although he was the best of the best, he still found the value in having an objective, yet trusted and caring, listener to critique his performances.
Most writing-heavy classes have exercises such as peer editing or teaching assistant feedback, but they don’t offer much in-depth or continued guidance to ensure improvement. Oftentimes, peer feedback can lack depth or relevancy as most students are unfamiliar with each other’s writing and are reluctant to come off as too harsh in their critiques. A trusted editor is invested in the outcome and development of the piece at hand, unlike peer editors or TA’s required to burn through an entire class of assignments.
I am lucky to have cultivated a lot of trusted editing or advising relationships throughout most of my interests. Just as my music group has an advisor sitting within our circle, shaping our sound and offering suggestions every step of the way, I have a trusted writing editor as well.
My trusted editor is a Biomedical Engineering major at Northwestern University. She may not be familiar with AP style, but she knows me and my voice and isn’t afraid to tell me exactly where I need to improve or what I need to cut. We are comfortable with each other which fosters mutual trust and respect. Her advice helps me streamline and clarify everything I write so I can better achieve my overall purpose of being widely understood.
So, before you submit your next essay on Canvas or bring in a rough draft for peer editing in class, find a trusted editor to review it. Look to your friends or book a couple of appointments with the same tutor at the Writing Center so they can get to know your voice to provide better feedback. Having a trusted editor in your corner can mean the difference between an A or a C, and in life, sustained success or mediocrity.