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  • Writer's pictureMeghan P. Nolan

Editing and Being Edited

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

I have often thought of the task of editing as an enjoyable one. Whether it is digging into my own work in the impossible pursuit for perfection, or working with someone else on their writing, I have always liked the process of what I have long considered making writing “better,” and I have always thought of the editing process as a collaborative one. As someone who has edited several journals and books over the years I now realize that often ask authors to make aesthetic changes— those things that I think will make their piece fit better within the whole— an artistic endeavor. And, this very well may be because of my background as a poet.

As a doctoral student, I have experienced collaborative editing quite differently, as my dissertation is under the constant editorial gaze of my lead advisor. Until now, additional eyes only saw my work after I was ready to share, which generally meant that the piece was near completion, if not already finished. And so, writing something while simultaneously editing through the eyes of another has been a difficult but useful process.

I also recently went through a double blind peer review process for an article, and that experience is making me think differently about editing as a whole. Maybe it is because of the impersonal nature of blind peer review, or maybe it is just because I have editing fatigue— I had to make extensive modifications for the article and my dissertation simultaneously— but, at no other time have I felt the oppressiveness of the editing process so keenly.

Truthfully, the act of editing anything is the epitome of gatekeeping. It is our way of asserting dominant standards and/ or relative judgments on writers regardless of content… and, in this, I am as guilty as the rest. But, what about how we edit our selves? How do we allow the more intangible tenets of social gatekeeping to influence our personal identity performances, and how do we go about editing non-written formats like persona? These are just a few things I am thinking about with my research going forward… I may not like what I find.

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