Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Editors are like Crash Davis

Last night I watched Bull Durham for the hundredth time and this time I was struck by a comparison -- the character of Crash Davis acts with Nuke Laloosh, just like a good editor does. He was brought in to mature the kid. He's supposed to teach him both how to be a better pitcher, but also to deal with obstacles he'll encounter, the media, and life in general.

The comparison between Crash and an editor, occurred to me when Nuke said, "What's this guy know about pitching? If he's so good how come he's been in the minors for the last ten years?" If an editor is lucky, they only run across that attitude a few times in their career. And for most of us, the answer is simple: because we want to be editors, not writers. The vast majority of us are not failed or wannabee editors (especially if we've been doing it for more than a few years. There certainly are some of those, but they tend to get weeded out in the editorial assistant, Assistant Editor, and Associate Editor stages.)

I was further convinced when Crash was giving Nuke advice on his scummy shower shoes. I was reminded how once I gave an author advice on a brand of shoe she should look for that is both fancy and comfortable for an upcoming wedding (Touch of Nina). Editors do obviously mostly give advice about writing ("the rose goes in the front"), and some of it is advice writers don't want to hear ("don't think; it can only hurt the ball club") but we most of the advice is necessary ("Christ, you don't need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt! What you need is a curveball!") And sometimes the advice isn't about writing at all ("He's just your father, man - he's as full of shit as anybody.") Editing is about getting the best out of someone else's talent. It's about still getting to go to the ballpark every day and get paid for it.

And let's not forget about Annie Savoy, too. Writers should get advice from multiple people, and they have different points of view, different strengths ("if anyone would know if you're pulling your hips, it's Annie,") and while their advice may occasionally conflict, if their goals are the same -- helping the writer -- then they ought to be able to play well together. And I believe that "the only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the Church of [Literature]."

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