Many of us started out in other careers and came to editing via circuitous routes. Some of us were teachers; some were engineers; some were writers who drifted into the editing side of the industry. In some cases, we had jobs that required us to fix other people’s work on a regular basis, and that’s how we discovered that editing is a profession unto itself. But did we already have an innate editorial knack before we called ourselves “editors”?
Previous posts on the Editors’ Weekly discuss ways of learning our trade, including Rosemary Shipton’s post How to Become an Editor. She mentions self-study, workshops and post-secondary programs. In another post, she talks about mentoring. But I often wonder whether all editors have a natural way with words before they start to develop their editing skills.
The topic of skill vs. ability came up recently at my kids’ piano lessons. One of my sons has perfect pitch: play any key on the piano, black or white, and he can identify it accurately. Perfect pitch is an ability, not a skill, and it can appear spontaneously (overnight, in my son’s case). Without it, you can train your ear and brain to recognize notes through drills and repetition, but if you have perfect pitch you can instantly identify notes without thought.
These kinds of abilities are not learned; they come naturally — built into our DNA, if you will. Skills, on the other hand, can be developed from scratch. Most editors, I think, have a mix of both — natural ability supported and enhanced by skill development.
What do you think: Are editors born or made? Which were you?
Previous Quick Topics post by Anna Williams: Quick Topics: Books, Books, Books.
The Editors’ Weekly is the official blog of Editors Canada. Contact us.