Today I took my dog Chilly, a white miniature poodle, to a brand new groomer named Sally. After I dropped him off I ran two blocks down the street to pick up a prescription from CVS. I was expecting to wait at least an hour and thought I’d get one errand done in the interim. Less than 20 minutes later, when I returned to Sally’s shop, Chilly was already finished! I laughed, because staring at me along with him through the front window was an identical dog. Well, identical except for one big difference. This dog was two feet taller than Chilly! I even joked with the cashier, stating, “I thought for a moment you transformed him into a giant!”
On our walk back home I got to thinking about how much a great editor is like a great dog groomer. Sometimes a literary work requires a full bath, a haircut and a nail trim. Sometimes it only needs a bath and a sanitary trim. And sometimes, the only thing necessary is a quick trim of the nails. A great editor must be able to recognize what needs to cleaned up or trimmed down, and make all the necessary adjustments while keeping the integrity of the original work. No one wants their work of art going in a miniature poodle and coming out a standard poodle!
Perhaps, equally important as keeping the integrity of a work is the way an editor communicates with their clients. Even worse than a picking up a bigger dog would be picking up a distressed or psychologically traumatized dog, right!? When I arrived to pick up Chilly today he was as happy as he could be. I knew Sally had treated him kindly. And just like her, an editor must be kind and compassionate every time they interact with their clients.
A great editor must also have a keen intuitive sense. Chilly has always had very long quicks in his nails. In the past most groomers have been afraid to cut them. But today, when we got home, I discovered Sally actually cut his nails. “Wow,” I thought, “this Sally is a real find! She must know how to trust her gut. We’re definitely going back to see her.”
Just like Sally the dog groomer, as an editor I want to always deliver feedback in a timely and efficient manner. I want to be able to communicate with clients in a kind and compassionate way. And above all, I want to be able to trust my intuition to know when to take risks, and when to back off.