An Introductory “Glimpse” Into the Editorial Life


By Mick Spillane


I am everywhere. That is, an editor. I am at work wherever words are being written, produced, and published—words about life, society, ideology, our everyday existence.


I’ve always felt, and I do think it is the consensus that being an editor is held in high prestige. To most people, though, it is a mystery. What is it as an editor that I really do, in my everyday existence? I am hired or assigned somebody else’s words to work on. I am to make those words literate, clear, logical, and precise. However, as we are all individuals, I may like or dislike the subject matter, but it is my job to make improvements. Yes, the life of an editor is consumed with contradictions. But I’ve said to myself, this is the life I’ve chosen; this is the business I’ve chosen; I don’t ask why they’ve chosen to write this; but it really does have to do with my business (A—yeah, famous movie quote … a little tweaked. Guess?)


My selflessness, infinite patience, and anonymity are my guiding principles. Is being an editor a monklike existence? Alone, amidst Post-It Notes-annotated dictionaries and style guides, outfitted in various pajama ensembles, whose only contact during business hours are the mail carrier/Fed Ex/UPS workers. That can be an accurate description. Sorry I digress. Yes, of course, sometimes I would be pleased to be acknowledged for the work; other times I am beholden for that project to be over.


I am portraying the editor in an abstruse manner. The job description for the life achievements are often counted by readers, consumers, whoever hired me as belonging to them. Does this point to a moral quandary? It is just part of the profession. Most writers need help—no one can edit themselves. They can, but that sort of hurts my business.


As I mentioned, this is a selfless profession—I give and give; I care too much. Or maybe I am a cranky yet lovable curmudgeon who wants everything to be perfect, including other’s written words.


Therefore, “communication” is one of the backbones of my business (and meeting deadlines). It is my job to make sure the written word is clear to the reader. With this in mind, it seems warranted that as an editor I approach each project with great vim and vigor, an unbridled enthusiasm for the concepts I am working with. It is my duty to make a caliginous idea comprehensible and to let an ingenious idea dazzle.