For me, editing has always been about loving words and loving ideas. Learning and thinking will always be important. Yet in a technology-saturated world with an ever-accelerating rate of change, we don’t know exactly what books and reading will be like in the future. We have a better idea, however, of who editors need to be in the future.
Tech Savvy. Books
are different now than they were ten years ago. Ten years from now they will be different again. How? We don’t know. But the next generation of editors will need to stay technologically flexible as the variety of electronic containers for words grows beyond ebooks, tweets and posts. Sure, we just love (or maybe know well and so are comfortable with) WordPerfect or Word. But we can’t stay there. We may need familiarity with desktop publishing programs. The Cloud offers a whole new way of working. Other changes will come. The future of editing means staying up to date.
Design Savvy. Capitalism has made us all hyper-aware of design. And not just aware of the design of our new electronic device but of bottles and cars and chairs and tools. Editors don’t need to be graphic designers (and our graphic designer friends would probably like us to stay out of their way and let them do their job), but we do need to know how design works and the effect our editorial choices can have on how a piece is ultimately designed.
Globally Savvy. It’s almost trite to say we live in a global village. But actually living and thinking that way is another matter. For decades I’ve been telling my authors, “Don’t write, ‘Americans this,’ and ‘In America that.’ ” Our books go all over the world–to England, South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand and beyond. And dozens are translated each year into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Urdu, Korean and more. Editors need to know the world, help writers be aware of the world, and cultivate the ability to work effectively with authors from around the world. Traveling the world, meeting people from around the world, reading writers from different continents–these are all ways to be prepared for the global future of editing.
Multiethnically Savvy. Closely related to being globally savvy, the future of editing is multiethnic. Editors are (or should be) curious people–people who are naturally inquisitive and want to know something about everything. So we should want to know what makes other cultures work, how do other groups think about things and do what they do. Crossing cultures can be stressful and disorienting. When encountering other contexts, there will always be some things we will not be able to fully grasp, and we will always be outsiders to some extent. But if we are to be effective editors in the future, we need to grow in our knowledge and appreciation of people from different backgrounds, beliefs and values.
Networking Savvy. It seems
inevitable that the future of editing will be increasingly freelance. Publishers, businesses and nonprofits are more likely to outsource editorial work. Editors should expect to be on their own for at least part of their careers. So while you have a job–network, network, network. Use every opportunity to connect with writers, editors, friends, business associates. Editors tend to be an introverted lot. But as Susan Cain says in Quiet, you can learn to be a socially poised introvert.
Professionally Savvy. We live in an increasingly informal world. We dress less formally and speak less formally than a generation ago. Don’t let that fool you for a minute when it comes to thinking about success on the job. Informality doesn’t mean you can be sloppy in your work, less up-to-date about your profession, less honest in your dealings, or less respectful of others (whether older or younger, male or female). Always look for ways to increase your skills, increase your knowledge, increase your ability to work in an effective, friendly, constructive way with people. Being professional also means you:
• Show up on time.
• Stay till the work is done.
• Ask for opportunities to do more than you are assigned.
• Don’t just do the minimum.
• Keep personal calls and activity to an absolute minimum on the job.
• Respond to all emails and calls within a day, if only to say you are working on it.
• Keep your promises.
Being professional means being a person of integrity and commitment who takes other people seriously. There’s always a future for people like that.
Next Installment: The Future of Editing 3: Flexibility