The Subjective Madness

Jan 13, 2005Write!

In the land of fairytimes, in the anon time before I understood the publishing biz, I held this cherished belief that publishers knew everything, were perfectly consistent, and had universal opinions about each work that flew across an editor’s desk.

Now I’m not so sure. I just received my edits from a publisher. The editor did a terrific job, although I must say all the red ink made my eyes hurt a bit. I appreciate his kind attentiveness to the book, his eye for detail, his ability to discern when a reader would be confused. As I read through his comments and edits, I remembered that he was not initially my editor.

This caused my mind to walk an entire journey . . . What would the other editor have said? What red lines would he have made? What verbs would he deem weak? Where would he add clarification? This is just one book in the pipeline of thousands of books. I realized how different the book might turn out with a different editor or with a different publisher for that matter.

Then I remembered the rejections of this particular book. A couple houses passed on the manuscript, but what if they hadn’t? (At this time, my crazy-awful mind had visions of advance-wars, spiraling my fledgling advance to more digits.)

At this point, I realized that a book has to be held like water running through hands–it is a fluid endeavor, spilled out by some, consumed by others, edited by one. Sure, the book is “my baby,” but in a sense it belongs to many more spheres–the publishing house, small CBA bookstores, megaplex bookstores, the reading public, the gift-giving public. Suddenly, this kernel of an idea God breathed into my heart has taken on a life of its own.

I’m thankful for that in one sense. It means that the book is out of my hands, in the capable Hands of the One who holds all things together. On the other hand (to continue my poorly wrought metaphor), I feel loss–like my baby has grown up with a mind of her own and is ready to explore the world without me.

All this to say this profound truth (drumroll, please): PUBLISHING IS SUBJECTIVE. While one house may love your prose, another may be riled by it. One editor may slash and burn, another may gently lead. Sometimes I view it like the surprising ending to St. Elsewhere, where what we really thought was a hospital drama was actually a snowglobe manipulated by an autistic boy who dreamed the entire plot of the series in his head. Publishing is a snow globe, manipulated by . . . well, who knows . . . Snowflakes are whirring around at the tip of a whimsical hand.

That being said, the subjective madness doesn’t crush me, nor does it disillusion me. I’m just so flat-out happy that I actually sold some books, that publishers thought my ruminations worthy of the printed page! And I am keenly aware of the true Promoter of all things. Jesus is the One who sees it all. He simply asks me to take the last seat, the seat of humility, allowing His promotion. Not mine.

So, yeah, it’s subjective. But, God is here. He is present all around. He sees my words. He sees your words. He weathers the rejections with us. He works in and through editors.

He is an Author, after all.