I used to think that needing an editor was a sign that your writing was terrible. I viewed all edits as criticisms – harsh ones. If my writing was good, I wouldn’t need to change it. And if you were any good at writing, you’d be a writer instead of an editor!
Poppycock, of course. These are totally separate skills. Creative ideation and thoughtful execution are totally different in any context. But at the same time, there are some misconceptions – just like I had.
First, creative ideation isn’t better than thoughtful execution. People get that wrong all the time. It’s like saying the left wheels of a car are better than the right ones. Neither is better because you need both.
Second, these things aren’t always separate. Some people really can both write and edit their own writing. Some people can’t do either. Some people are 80/20, or 30/70. The myth that everyone is always exactly one of those things is fiction.
And lastly, there’s a pervasive myth that being good at one or the other correlates perfectly with enjoying one or the other, and also in turn correlates with all sorts of other personality traits. Creative writers love creative writing and are all artsy hippies, while all editors are nerdy accountants who love sharpening pencils.
Here’s really the only thing you really need to know: both are valuable, and if you’re primarily one of them you should value the other. Creative ideation and thoughtful execution combine to make great things, but they don’t substitute for each other. Find your mix.