Past-Life Experience and the Editor

magic book editor

This week I’ve been musing in-between work and … well, work (there have been a few long days this week).

Every now and then I’m reminded that it’s not just editorial training that makes a good editor, but also people skills, and previous work and life experience.

It’s often easy to forget that your background, and what you have picked up along the way, really can impact on your work. You can take your experience for granted and forget that not everyone knows what you know.

Here are a few areas where your previous life can help you as an editor.

People Skills

I tend to take my people skills for granted – working in an academic library all those years ago really taught me how to deal with a diverse range of people. From anxious students who had lost their dissertation references, to demanding academics who believed their faculty was the most important, I’ve dealt with a massive range of people. I learnt how to deal quickly and efficiently with other people’s problems; it wasn’t all stamping books. It’s so instinctive that if I can’t help someone myself I can usually figure out where to direct them. This experience was great for giving me the skills and confidence to work with clients, I just don’t really think about it much.


Over the years I’ve also had to be disciplined … great for staying the course of a freelance career. If you don’t have discipline then you are going to find freelance work very difficult

knowledge is power

Subject Knowledge

Subject knowledge is also a massive help for editors. Not only does it allow the editor to specialise, but when it is second nature, when you ‘just know’ the answer it makes life a whole lot easier. But you do tend to forget that not everyone knows what you do. It’s not all about being an expert in a particular field, it’s also about knowing what you know and using that knowledge to move you forward in your career.

Being Tech Savvy

If your previous life allowed you to keep up with information technology then you are off with a head start. Long gone are the days when all a freelance editor needed was a few coloured pens, some paper and a regular postal service. Today’s editor has a host of technology at their fingertips … if they know how to use it. I often forget that not everyone is comfortable using styles and templates … only last week I had a brain freeze … what on earth was a template? Then I realised they are what I’ve been creating for twenty-odd years, I just forgot they were a ‘thing’. Try not to take your technical knowledge for granted, it’s easy to forget that what you have been doing for years is not second nature to everyone. And remember to keep up to date!

There are bound to be other areas where your past-life experience can help massively with your work as an editor, but these are mine. What are yours?

2 Comments on “Past-Life Experience and the Editor

  1. This all makes sense, both if one embarks on an editing career or any other career that is a departure. Sometimes we take some of our skills for granted or we forget about them rather than actively applying them to any new endeavour. By the way, I am clearly in the majority when I say that your instructional posts are the ones I personally prefer.

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