A wonderful article in The Herald Scotland by Liz Thomson gives an insight into 83-year-old editor Gordon Lish. It offers great insight into Lish’s lifelong career as well as the way many great editors feel about the work they do.
“I have a gift. Or I have an opinion or I have a prejudice or a bias,” Lish explains. “Would that I were otherwise, but I’m not. I have a quick sense of the destiny of what’s before me.”
No matter how humble talented editors tend to be about their instinct for good writing and a writer’s ability to revise, the instinct is real.
“I’d get in at six in the morning. In those days I could look at a page of text and arrive at some kind of view of its qualities, its values. I can’t do that now because I’m quite impaired by macular degeneration so I can’t see enough, only a snippet.”
Although I’m a freelancer, I still get in to my home office by 6:00 a.m. It fills me with fear to think of a day when I can’t see text.
“I never felt competent to express what a book is about. It’s not about anything. Nothing but the writing.”
It’s important for writers to know how to discuss their book. I stress to my clients the need to express clearly and concisely what their book is about. Still, I feel protective of a client’s book when asked this question, wishing always that it would be sufficient to say, “Trust me. It’s good.”
“I’m comfortable with words,” Lish concludes. “I write them down psychotically. If I come upon a word I don’t know I write it down. Their effect on me is potent and delicious.”
This last quote was my favorite part of the article. To be comfortable with and psychotic about words. to find them potent and delicious, this is a good description of what it’s like being a logophile.
Read the entire article on HeraldScotland.com.