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Politics and the Editor


As a young writer in Canada, I needed an editor and a proofreader badly. But I was torn with doubt and indecision. What if the proofer loved commas and wanted as many in there as possible, slowing down the fast read I intended? What if the editor didn’t understand my vernacular and changed all my broken dialogue to complete sentences? Oh, the hand wringing I went through! But the thing I never considered—because I didn’t really have to consider it back then—was the political awareness of an editor.

Editing, Meet Politics

Fast forward to 2018, and the ideological divide is pretty strong in the US. It affects editing more than many other services. I don’t think a mechanic’s political awareness will affect how he or she tunes an engine too much, but an editor’s awareness will affect a

manuscript in development. Because the freedom to write and speak is so important to me (instilled years ago at the Hart House debates club, University of Toronto), I advertise that writers of all political stripes are welcome in my shop. I feel this statement telegraphs my respect for all writers, right up front.

Why am I telling you this?

In my view, a developmental editor needs to know the trigger points of the buying market as well as agents and publishers. An editor needs to know the market, what to greenlight, and what to call out as a potential hotspot to certain segments of the buying market. The 2016 election was a perfect example of pundits being unaware of the feelings of large segments of the country. I’m no political pundit or analyst, but I was aware that the mainstream media was out of touch. How I knew that was simple: I’m openminded, I give everyone listen. I spend a minimum of two hours per day on liberal, conservative and libertarian news outlets and blogs to make sure I understand current events from each point of view.

To paraphrase one PeriscopeTV commenter, “It’s like the country is watching two movies on one

screen.” What one side sees as a dystopian tragedy, the other side sees as a patriotic action-adventure. When I watch both movies, I come to an understanding somewhere in the middle. For the record, I’m uncomfortable in an echo chamber, and make every effort to break down those walls on a daily basis. This affects my editing, making me sensitive to almost every writer’s point of view.

Diversity of Thinking

If everybody in my circle has a different ethnicity or culture, that’s not diversity to my way of thinking, not if we all think the same. Lack of thought diversity creates an echo chamber. If nobody ever disagrees with me, I become stale and complaisant; I become fixed in my beliefs and may even jump to the conclusion that those who disagree are weird or morally defective.

I want robust debate in my circle, and a variety of opinions on my bookshelf. I want to hone my ideas on a whetstone of honest, passionate exchange with others of diverse thoughts and beliefs. In my world, the best ideas win no matter where they originate—I don’t give a hoot about color, creed or gender. If an idea seems hateful, let it be freely spoken so it can be argued against vigorously and proven wrong. When speech and ideas are suppressed, they fester, they gain power in the vacuum. Hasn’t

history proved that free and unfettered public forum is the best

protection ever devised against weak ideas?

My 2019 new year’s resolution has arrived. I intend to honor my freedom to speak and write, even when people I love and respect may disagree with me.

How about you?

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