Hillary Olsen ELang 410 Marv Gardner 27 February 2013 Editing Lessons Learned in Sicily As I walked the uneven, hilly cobblestone streets of the tiny Sicilian town I was living in, I often had occasion to ask myself, what am I doing here? With each jarring step against the hard stone and each cold gust of wintry, mountain air, I thought, why am I doing this? The answer was simple. I had just arrived as a missionary and my purpose was clear. My companion and I had a stewardship, and it was our responsibility to teach and care for the people there. The eternal principle of stewardship became more of a reality as my love for missionary work grew. As Joseph Fielding Smith taught, “The responsibility to perform [your] labor came to you from the Son of God. You are his servants. You will be held accountable to him for your stewardship” (235–36). That is why I was there. How do my experiences as a missionary and the lessons I learned about stewardship relate to editing? Stewardship brings great responsibility, and in order to avoid doing harm, an editor must abide by the same principles that I learned as a missionary: awareness, honesty, and loyalty. The term awareness can be means two different things in a stewardship: awareness of self and awareness of duty. Awareness plays a big role in how we interact with others and how we carry out our responsibilities. I think that personal awareness is the first key to understanding stewardship. We must understand who we are in relation to those around us. We must understand what our role is and what is expected of us. We also must understand that “everything we possess is really a stewardship. Our time, our talents, our property, our families, our Church
Olsen 2 callings and priesthood offices—all of these have been entrusted to us as a part of our individual stewardship” (Gardner 34). Self-awareness is the core of good editing and provide me with guideposts to ensure that I do not overstep my bounds as an editor. Before editing a manuscript I must ask myself questions that will help me understand my audience, the author, and the purpose of the piece. Editors need to remember that their job is not to change the ideas of the author, but to change the way the ideas are expressed so that the author’s genius can shine. Editors do harm when they become overzealous and forget their role. Personal awareness in editing means recognizing that what we’re working on really isn’t ours, but rather is something that has been entrusted to us by an author. This viewpoint can guide our decisions as we seek to help the author and meet the needs of the readership. Once we are aware of who we are in relation to the manuscript, the author, and the readership, we can develop an awareness of our duty. This awareness is closely related to personal awareness, but it includes an understanding of who has given us stewardship and what our obligation to that person is. As a missionary, I knew that the Lord had sent me to Sicily to help His children and to share an important message with them. The message was clear and simple, and I shared it with everyone I met, adapting it to each person’s individual needs and circumstances. We never changed the content of the message, only the expression of it, so that our audience could understand it and see its significance. Similarly, each time we receive a manuscript, we need to recognize that the author has entrusted their work to us. We are not to change its content; rather, we are to adapt the content to the needs of the readership. It can be easy to overstep our bounds as editors, but we have to always be aware of what we do and how it affects the author-reader relationship. We facilitate this relationship; we don’t create it. Any form of literature is a conversation between the author
Olsen 3 and the readers. If we don’t allow the author’s voice to speak, or if we alter it with our own stylistic preferences, whose voice do the readers hear? If we lose our sense of awareness, we risk the possibility of hindering or obscuring the author-reader relationship. I know that as an editor I have to find balance, always be aware of what I am doing, and know how my actions will affect the author’s ability to reach the reader. After awareness, honesty is of the utmost importance in any relationship. We need to be honest with ourselves and honest with those we work with. President Gordon B. Hinckley teaches, “Very simply, we cannot be less than honest, we cannot be less than true . . . if we are to keep sacred the trust given us by those who have gone before us, or if we are to merit the trust and confidence of those with whom we live, work, and associate” (26–27). Honesty reigns in relationships of trust. The editorial relationship is no exception. If I see a mistake or if I foresee a problem with the way that any magazine article is written, it is my responsibility to tactfully tell the author. It is my job to ensure that the author’s ideas are cohesive, clear, and original. By honestly identifying points where improvement can be made, the editorial relationship is strengthened and the author knows that the editor can be trusted. Honesty also guides the degree to which I edit and make changes to a manuscript. Each article is my stewardship: it has been entrusted to me with the understanding that I will strengthen it and guide the author’s ideas, but it is not mine. It is the author’s voice that must speak to the reader from each page of the article, not mine. Sometimes it would be easier to just make all the changes myself, but I know that that is not honest. It’s not honest to the author, it’s not honest to the readers, and it’s definitely not honest to myself. As a missionary, I found that a lack of honesty in this regard came when I felt overconfident with my ideas and lost my sense of
Olsen 4 awareness. Stewardships don’t work when honesty and awareness are lost. I know that an honest self-evaluation throughout the editing process prevents harmful overzealousness. In editing, there are degrees of loyalty that must be upheld. As Plotnik argued in his article on the editorial relationship, an editor’s loyalty is first to the readership, then to the author. The author is the expert on the subject matter, and the editor is the expert on the readership (25). An editor is loyal to the readership by considering how each portion of an article will be received by readers and how well they’ll understand it. Editors show loyalty to the author by faithfully representing what the author originally said or intended. In addition to voice, the author’s tone and purpose need to be preserved in the editorial process. When editors lose their sense of awareness and are not honest with themselves, loyalty is jeopardized. When this occurs, editing becomes a selfish pursuit, rather than an act of cooperation. When I was a missionary, I needed to give a faithful and accurate representation of the message while considering the unique needs of each person I talked with. I couldn’t contort or change the message in order to satisfy my own desires or the preferences of someone else. I likewise needed to make sure that the important message I had to share was not presented in a rigid or lofty manner that may have been ill-suited or even incomprehensible for certain audiences. I know that as an editor, I must do the same. I need to remember both the author and the audience as I edit. While my loyalty is first to the readership, loyalty to the author is also important and can’t be forgotten. My experiences as a missionary helped me to understand the meaning and satisfaction of stewardship. Now, at the onset of my editing career, I know that it is important to always remember the important lessons that I learned as a missionary in Sicily. As stated in the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord will “make every man accountable” for his stewardship (104:13). As a
Olsen 5 missionary, I was accountable for the people and the well-being of the Church in the areas that I served in. As an editor, I am accountable for maintaining awareness throughout the entire editing process, and I must show honesty and loyalty to the author, the readership, and myself. I know that as I remember these principles, I will avoid doing harm and I will fulfill my purpose as an editor.
Olsen 6 Works Cited Gardner, R. Quinn. “Becoming a Zion Society.” Ensign Feb. 1979, 30–35. Print. Hinckley, Gordon B. Standing for Something: Ten Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2000. Print. Plotnik, Arthur. Elements of Editing. New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1982. Print. Smith, Joseph Fielding. Seek Ye Earnestly. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1970. Print. The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979. Print.