‘I have discovered that anything worth doing
is worth doing badly’
from Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenburg
I recently joined a writers and editors group on the Linkedin website, just to see what was happening. There I ran across a survey on e-publishing that asked if I agreed that e-publishing gave writing a bad reputation by allowing just any one to put their unedited work out in public. The question took me aback. When I tried that sentence again with different nouns, saying ‘You-tube gives movie making a bad name by allowing just any one to put their unedited video out in public’, it confirmed my shock. Does anyone honestly think that we are going to stop making movies because of You-tube?
Then I received a private email from some one who had seen my blog and wanted to be my editor. They started out by telling me it is clear I already have a good editor. I found that assumption insulting , but sadly in line with the survey question. Folks, I don’t have an editor, What goes out on this blog is my own work. And it is work. Creative and critical writing are two different processes. I do the reading, I do the thinking, I do the writing. When I get to the rewriting, I am deeply appreciative when some one takes the time to tell me where and how they got lost in my narrative. It is great to have feedback on typos. Writer’s eye makes it very hard to proofread your own work.
The unsolicited email I got then asked me to pay them $1.50 for every double spaced 12 point Times Roman font page. This kind of formatting is completely irrelevant to e-publishing. They also failed to give me any indication that they had read, never mind understood, anything I had written or tell me why they would be qualified to comment on it. The implications are subtle but persistent: apparently no writing is good, unless you have paid some self-appointed authority pass to judgement on it. And that authority need not have a clue what you are saying, how you are presenting it, or who your audience might be.
Years ago I picked up an issue of the student newspaper at one of the Ivy League colleges. There was an apologetic note from the editors that said ‘We are sorry that we are going to have to proof read your writing and ask for correct spelling and punctuation because our readers have complained that they can’t tell the difference between artistic expression and typos.’ Writing is meaning, and the conventions that support meaning will survive. If reading and writing appear to be endangered it is because there are way too many teachers, editors, and publishers who are actively discouraging people from practicing their craft.
Good writing is a craft. It takes practice. Writers need feedback to improve. Smashwords is great because you can see writers progress and respond to their readers. There are already a large number of e-books that are introduced as re-written, re-edited,and re-formatted, and the platform is still very new. E-publishing has actually allowed writing and writers to flourish. Editors and proofreaders can flourish too, as writers decide that they need a helpful eye. Unfortunately, feedback is also a skill, and it seems more than a few in the field need to brush up on their own.
There are good folks out there, though. Some time back, a well-known authority and small publisher in the field gave me a wonderful response on my work with the Hebrew alphabet. He said ‘Your work is well-researched, pragmatic, and original. It will never fit into the narrow categories of traditional publishing. Use the internet to find your audience.’ The quality of my writing was not an issue for him, he made sure to tell me what was positive about my work, and he made his own view-point clear. I am profoundly grateful to him.