An editor is a midwife – a midwife of ideas.
Women have been given that unique position and privilege of conceiving a baby and having the precious human being gradually develop within them. While the child grows, she supplies all that is needed for growth. After a period of around nine months, the baby is fully developed and is ready to be born.
Then steps in the midwife. Through training and experience, with sensitivity for the tenderness of a baby and knowledge of the complexity of the delivery process, the midwife helps the baby transition from the womb to the cradle for the whole world to see.
The role of an editor is much the same. Hardly the owner of the idea, an editor is one who helps a writer or author to birth an idea or thesis or message which is tucked away in the recesses of the mind and fashions it into a fully formed product. The editor does not just look for apparent errors of punctuation and grammar; they go further. An editor questions the style, worries about the tone, digs out the intended meaning, scrutinizes the language, and ensures it is suitable for the intended audience.
An invaluable resource, the editor hardly gets the credit. That still belongs to the writer or author. And for most of us, that is fine. We rejoice in the knowledge that through our skill and painstaking effort, a voice, message or idea has been put out for the world to hear. The editor is largely a behind-the-scenes agent who performs essential back-end tasks and hardly gets seen. And like the frame on which a beautiful picture sits or the canvas on which a striking portrait is painted, the editor supports the creation of a work of beauty and skill. They are neither the painting nor the portrait, yet both depend on them.
I am an editor, and I am glad to be a midwife of ideas.