Many of us who read and post on this blog write professionally — some for ourselves, some for clients.
A friend of mine is a speechwriter for senior execs. She cares deeply about writing good speeches. She talks the issues, topics and audiences through with the exec, listens, elicits stories, then writes a draft. Several people, including the exec who will deliver the speech, weigh in. Like many of us, she can sometimes get defensive about her draft when changes are suggested. At minimum she wants to explain why she wrote it the way she did.
I think she needs to be able to compose with, then let go of, pride of authorship. A lot of professionals will throw a draft onto the table and say to the others who will look it over, “Have at it, there’s no pride of authorship here.” That’s an open invitation for critique and improvement.
But how can there be no pride of authorship if you really care about what you write?
I’d love some advice from y’all for my friend. What has worked for you when you really care about a piece of writing but know it will go across many other keyboards or be scribbled on by other pens on the way to — one hopes — being improved? How do you keep caring while inviting others to edit? How do you invite critique? How do you recieve it?
Chime in here, please.
I learned to mostly let go, as much as I’ve learned it, by being edited for 10 years as a daily reporter — and by not being edited much in my early years on a small paper and actually finding I missed it. To my astonishment, I found that good editors actually improved my stuff, and that when some of my golden words were jettisoned, the piece got better. And I’ve learned that writing a speech is really about catching another’s thoughts and voice on paper, not producing something that I think is a wonderful expression of my own brilliance. I’ve also learned there are bad editors and bad contributors — well, they’re not evildoers, most of them, but their suggestions and “improvements” generally suck — and learned which input to listen to and which to pocket veto.
What works for you? How’d you learn this?