James Thurber on editing

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Editing should be, especially in the case of old writers, a counseling rather than a collaborating task. The tendency of the writer-editor to collaborate is natural, but he should say to himself, “How can I help this writer to say it better in his own style?” and avoid “How can I show him how I would write it, if it were my piece?”

That’s James Thurber in a 1959 memo to The New Yorker. via kottke.org

There Are 4 Comments On This Article.

  1. Clearly, Thurber is referring to himself when he mentions ‘the case of older writers’. In other words, ‘leave my copy alone’.

    The role of the editor has been highlighted in a particularly interesting case with the recent publication some of Rayomond Carver’s short stories in their original form, before his editor significantly re-worked them.

    This new ‘Carver’ is very diffferent from the ‘Carver’ who enjoyed such great critical acclaim, for his sparse style, twenty five years.

    It will be interesting to see which one posterity will look favourably on.

  2. The point here being…..”Hey creative director from the AD agency….the one with plenty o ego and no technical ability to craft beautiful images….LEAVE ME ALONE TO WORK MY MAGIC!!”

    Maybe I am getting old at 28. I’ve given up appeasing people. I am almost certain its not the young amateurs screwing the industry – its agency creative directors. IMO they have highjacked the ‘creative drive’ on any given commercial job. It allows them to charge far superior premiums. Clients dont turn to the lens man like they used to and thats because of the marketing done to position the agencies as the ‘driving force’ of any ‘vision’.

    Truth be told I am yet to meet one creative directive with outstanding technical ability to carry a vision from doodle sketch to billboard. Yet they rack in the cash. Its not good enough to come up with a creative angle. The visual poetry comes from finding a way to engage the consumer in the concept. Thats 100% photographic art and creative process of a lens man.

    Twice this year I have walked from a job (fairly small mind you) and said ‘thats a stupid idea, a stupid way of going about a stupid idea and its not how I would do it behind the camera and therefore dont want a bar of it unless its done my way’.

    Creative directors need to be put in their box on a more regular basis. The crux of their role is to map the positioning of any given campaign across media channels not to ‘own’ the creative space in its entirety.

    IMO more photogs should tell more CDs to get f%&ked. Be known for owning your ‘creative space’ it will let you charge a far higher premium.