The Editor’s Work/Life Balance

(quotes from Jenny Lee)

You are constantly learning new things

One of the pleasures of editing is that you are constantly learning new things. Over time, editors tend to acquire a broad general knowledge, a deep humility about what they don’t know, and an abiding scepticism of authors’ claims to authoritativeness.

It’s also important to keep reading good books

While editors land up doing a lot of highly directed reading in the course of their work, it’s also important to keep reading good books. This can be difficult, especially if you’re reading manuscripts, which tend to take up your usual book-reading time. Maxwell Perkins, the doyen of American literary editors, once complained, ‘A man becomes an editor because he loves books, and then finds that he cannot possibly get time to read the books of any other publisher than the one he works for.’ Many editors would sympathise, but it can be a mistake to narrow your sights in this way. Apart from anything else, it’s refreshing to read well-written works, and it helps to remind you of what writing can be—something that you can easily forget when you’re ploughing through other people’s wobbly sentences.