By Kim Goldberg
Does a writer need an editor?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: Don’t be silly.
Despite the prevailing orthodoxy around editing, I have never believed that a writer must have her creative output “improved” by someone else before it is fit to be published or otherwise released into the world.
The literary arts are the only art form I can think of where this dogma about the inadequacy of the artist prevails, this cockamamie notion that the creator herself cannot, on her own, get it right—cannot effectively ply her craft and manifest her creative vision unaided by outside correction.
No one would dream of suggesting, let alone insisting, that a painter must turn her canvas over to some special finishing expert for final “fixes” before exhibition. Or that a potter must step aside and let someone else (who may not even be a professional potter) have the final turns at the wheel. Or that a musician must let some musicology graduate pen the last few bars of her song if it is to be any good.
Yet if a writer resists the orthodoxy of having someone else adjust her work before it goes out into the world, she is branded a prima donna, an amateur, a cranky piece of shit.
Perhaps the reason this orthodoxy persists and is so vigorously enforced in the literary arts is because of the vast industry of academic careers and workshop gurus dependent upon it.
If a writer actually wants outside guidance, instruction, feedback, workshopping, tweaking, editing… fine. But let’s not confuse those individual desires with some overall requirement that all writers must obtain outside help before their work is fit to read. The very notion is paternalistic in the extreme.
In all of my books, articles, poems, short fiction, and screenplays (from which I have supported myself since 1977), I am saying exactly what I want to say in exactly the way I want to say it. I am not looking for a collaborator, thanks.