The Editor as Liberator


An editor can help you to free yourself as a writer. Do you use a different part of your brain to create than to analyze?

I am reading through a manuscript in which the author writes about a character who "rung" her hands and describes an activity under the "eves" of a house. I am sure the author knows those are homophones (words that sound alike but have different meanings), but it's precisely the sort of error we are prone to make while in the flow of recording an imagined tableau. It's precisedly the sort of error we need to forgive ourselves in the writing process, knowing we are freed to do so by the trusty editor.

I wonder if the parts of our brains devoted to spelling convention and knowing the difference between wrung and rung are different from the parts that allow us to follow and record imagined landscapes, characters, and dialog.

A 2014 study of twenty-eight subjects asked to write while fMRIs recorded pictures of their brain activity suggests that while creating stories, the visual center of our brains are activated. Dr. Martin Lotze of the University of Greifswald in Germany, the main neuroscientist conducting the study, also asked those volunteers to copy a piece of writing and found that the visual centers were not stimulated in the same way as when creating text.

This is not to say that you can't imagine and spell at the same time, but that while in the creative act, perhaps more neurons are dancing about in a region where spelling is less important. For the writer, the creator, it makes sense to acknowledge that and let it be--not to get bogged down in mechanical convention while taking a wild ride alongside your storytelling self. Adherence to mechanical convention is for the editor.

When you understand that you are sharing responsibility for a piece of writing, you can allow yourself to fly freely along the path your imagination leads. That's your job as creator of the world you are writing. The editor's job, in the interest of facilitating that flight, is to support you. The editor comes along afterward, employing other parts of the brain who are just as happy to host a neural dance party focused instead on analyzing: spelling, grammar, usage, punctuation, formatting.

Let your act be one of liberty, of unbridled creativity. Let the editor take care of the rest.

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