Sometimes when editing a manuscript, I am struck by the intimate things that the author shares, either intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, the writer always reveals something about themselves that they didn’t intend. For me, it can be like seeing someone while they’re sleeping, or with their fly down, or their slip showing. It can be like watching someone when they don’t know they’re being watched, and witnessing them do something kind—or unkind—to a stranger on the street, or a waiter, or someone in traffic.
With every manuscript, I get a sense for the individual behind the words. Sometimes it’s cloudy, and at other times it’s clear. Aside from the technical aspect of the work, I’m always exposed to the personality and thought processes of another human being. It can be quite personal, even if we never see one another face to face or speak on the phone.
My current manuscript is a memoir, and the elderly gentleman who has written it seems to have no idea of how kind-hearted, charming, and lovely he is. He’s simply recollecting his life with gratitude and love, and I’m honoured to be able to work with his words—but not because he’s an incredibly eloquent or skilled writer; he actually needs a good deal of editorial support to deliver his message clearly. What makes this a pleasure to work with has everything to do with the beautiful spirit that’s shining through the writing. The words are just the delivery system.