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Did Shakespeare have an editor?


As I walked this morning, I was thinking about the book I was writing and the books other people have written (specifically Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book which is outstanding and masterful) – and the editing process that surrounds them. I pretty quickly made the leap to the copywriting work that I do – and the editing process that surrounds them.

In each case, the writer/artist begins with a pure moment of production unfettered by anyone esle’s opinions. Or does s/he? Are there thoughts always lingering in the back of the mind about what the editor, readers, customers, clients, boss wants? And if not, certainly the inner editor is there.

Many of us have been lucky, we’ve had those moments. Those beatific dips in the space-time continuum when the words gush in a direct beam from mind to paper (er, keyboard). And in those moments, the editorial thoughts are silent.

Which got me thinking about Shakespeare. He didn’t have an editor at Harper Collins breathing down his neck or telling him that the story would work better if only Juliet was hanging out of her window instead of standing on her balcony…right? Of course, he did have the Queen and the theater owners to contend with (yes, I saw Shakespeare in Love, too).

But imagine him before he actually became Shakespeare. For that matter, imagine us before we had bills to pay or dreams of fame and repute.

Is this what we should be striving for? Writing for the love of writing? Purely that?

Of course we should

When I got to my computer, post-walk, I had an email directing me to Chris Brogan’s latest blog post (actually he wrote it yesterday but I only got it today because Feedburner sucks). In it, he urges us to “work backwards” – it’s a wonderfully inspiring article that supports the wackiness of my work life. He writes:

In the beginning, you might feel a bit uncertain. Try things out. Build secret labs. Run things by friends. Then, don’t listen to what they say. You think visionaries have safety nets and advisory boards and case studies?

Someone had to hunt the first mammoth.

That’s right, I thought. Someone, or some people, wrote before there were bosses and editors and clients and customers. When they wrote because they were called to create and share. Because they couldn’t resist.

So. Can we clear our minds, in whatever pursuit we’re engaged, and – essentially – go back?

Image courtesy of gadl

Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • --Deb says:

    Funny–I’ve got a post just about ready to go that’s got a very similar message to this … To write what you want to READ. Not what’s hot, not what’s marketable, but something that satisfies YOU.

    Though, really, I can’t quite picture Shakespeare writing anything other than in the theater environment–that was the creative gasoline that drove his engine. He might have just waffled along, playing with sonnets, but never actually finishing anything if he hadn’t had deadlines and bills to pay.

    (P.S. I loved “Shakespeare in Love,” and it remains one of my all-time favorites. “It’ll all work out in the end.” “How?” “I dunno. It’s a mystery.”)

  • Ron Miller says:

    No, we can’t because we are paid to write and the person writing the checks usually has the final say. This blog is your only pure unfiltered writing. Nobody can tell you what to write and how to write it, and that’s the reason I fell in love with blogging in the first place. As a writer, who wouldn’t want a personal publishing platform. It gives you room to write about whatever you want to write, however you want to write it.

    As for Shakespeare, nobody is sure if it flowed from mind to quill or if it was a team of writers under his direction. We actually know very little about the man. You should read Bill Bryson’s book on Shakespeare’s life, fascinating how little we actually know about him considering his place in the history of art and writing.

    Anyway, write on Julie. (Write on Garth.) :-)

  • Julie Roads says:

    Ron – I didn’t know Bill Bryson had such a book. He is one of my all time favorite writers – which says a LOT because I abhor traveling…and that’s what he’s usually writing about!

    Also – you are a negative, cynic – but I adore you anyway.

  • Ron Miller says:

    I absolutely loved In a Sun Burned Country, but it made frightened to death to go to Australia. As it turned out, I never saw any of the horrible spiders and creatures he wrote in such great detail about and I had a wonderful time in spite of the endless flight there and back.

    I’m not cynical. I’m realistic…

  • B says:

    This is very good advice for the initial stages of writing, and of course we should always remember to enjoy writing. But the inner editor is also important; it’s not only about what the market wants, but about making your writing better, forcing us to be clearer, or cutting something that we don’t need…

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