Writer or Editor?

A recent post on a blog called “The Open Notebook” explored the personality differences between writers and editors.

Many smart things were said in this two-part post about traits that may dispose a person toward one job or the other. What signposts might guide a person who is skilled with words and enjoys using them well, if he or she is offered a choice between these two careers?

It’s important to note that those who contributed to the post mostly explored the differences between staff editors and freelance writers. Of course, there are staff writing jobs, and freelance editors, which muddies the waters somewhat. Let’s put that aside for now.

One of the insights in the post was that (staff) editing jobs are both collaborative and hierarchical, and so invite a certain ability to adhere to a goal set by others, along with respect for external authority. (Freelance) writing jobs tend to be more conducive to an individualistic mindset.

Interestingly, my nature fits the description offered above for staff editors: respect for authority, adherence to group goals, and comfort in a hierarchy. But the freelance writer in me thrills to the absolute freedom of creativity. I am never happier than when filling a blank page with whatever comes to mind, unbound by any restrictions.

I have been asked whether I’m a writer who also edits, or an editor who also writes. I’ve never been comfortable voicing a choice. Until I came to work at Arizona Wildlife Views, I was a writer, through and through. But in the past seven years as the associate editor of Arizona’s wildlife magazine, I’ve come to love the collaborative, coaching nature of the editor’s role. Working with writers who care about words is deeply satisfying.

In the end, I am fortunate not to be forced to choose. My job allows me to be both an editor and a writer. The job has always fit me very well, and now I have a better understanding of why.



3 thoughts on “Writer or Editor?

Add yours

  1. I know what predisposes me to writing as opposed to editing…all the rules that I don’t understand. I write what I think and attempt to put some correct style to it. But I also recognize my limitations and let the experts (like yourself) make me read better than I could imagine.

  2. Hello friend, I read your your blog and I like your job. You differentiate a writer and editor’s job very clearly. I thinks it is in one’s hand to make oneself expert (in any field). So a good writer can edit, and a good editor can write well. Same case happened with my friend David Chalfin. First he was a writer and as time passes he increases his skills. And now he is an editor also.

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