A Mothering Editor is my Mother’s Day Tribute to Mary C. Lewis, MCL Editing, Etc. Good Writers honor “Mother” wordsmiths who give their crucial, critical, and compassionate support. Gospelizer Dr. Walter Arthur McCray
The 2022 season of Mother’s Day is a fitting occasion for me to highlight several special qualities of the person I claim as my “mothering editor.” In the process of editing, she “mothers” the child-like creations of both novice and mature writers alike, by offering the best of her gifts and professional qualities to help us write and publish better. My mothering editor is Mary C. Lewis.
A mother gives birth or receives a child as her own. She then gives the child her all. She nurtures, develops, guides, teaches, provides, assists, watches, warns, and scorns; she heals, cares, tears up every now and then, prays, encourages, believes in, and rejoices. And besides doing a myriad of other things to rear her children, mother is always there. A mother—a great mother—loves, anyway and always. Such are her compassionate acts of “mothering.”
Every child and society needs, and should appreciate, a mother who fulfills her unique call to motherhood. Besides in the home, a mother’s calling spreads to the ministry of extended family, in the community and through the world. The virtuous actions of a true mother are indispensable to the life and well-being of her young children, and to the overall quality of life in societies throughout the Earth.
In the spirit and paradigm of motherhood, I focus my thoughts on the value of “mothering editors,” and especially on mine. Some editors are great wordsmiths; they bring the art and discipline of “mothering” to the process of writing and publishing. These editors are good, really good. Their editorial work bears the excellent character of a good mother’s nature. All good writers learn to respect the value of their mothering editors, and give them honor. I do so here.
In what condition would serious writers find themselves without the assistance and precious qualities of a competent editor who takes it upon herself to “mother” their written thoughts and ideas?
Writers and publishers of all kind depend on the unique qualities of an editor. Books, articles, magazines, screenplays, songs, poems, manuals, and guides, comics, advertisements—you name it—all these forms of writing usually need editorial work. Sometimes the author’s writing needs extensive editorial work. Though the type of editing needed may vary according to the form of writing being presented, these written works all require good editors and editing.
It is nearly impossible for most writers to clearly and effectively communicate a written message without the close reading and careful revisions of a mothering editor. Without her insightful services—according to the confession of many writers—completing the writing task is very, very difficult. Some may choose to write and publish without using the services of an editor. Unfortunately, often the process and end products of these “go-it-alone” writers are fraught with frustration, embarrassing mistakes, and failure in the marketplace.
To get a truer picture, reflect on the emotional and mental state of a young child who somehow gets disconnected in a social situation from the oversight of his mother. The lack of immediate care and direction for the child inevitably leads to fear, loss of confidence, and to some form of trauma, abuse or tragedy. A writer’s creations, like a young child, need the constant security and nurture of mothering. Neither can function well alone.
All things considered, the works of most first-time writers would be lost in wandering without the critical and compassionate support of a mothering editor. And, surprise, most seasoned authors would make embarrassing blunders that diminish their literary reputation by taking a shortcut to bypass the wise eyes of their mothering editor.
How a great professional editor revises a piece can make a great difference in how well the reading public receives a particular book or literary creation. Some published authors are fortunate enough to secure and invest in a great mothering editor. Consequently, they are reaping and enjoying the continuing fruit of success: their published works are spreading across the nation and worldwide; their impact on humanity is extensive. As a result of skillful editing, their book simply reads well, and sells well.
Certainly some writers have encountered a bad experience with a non-good “editor.” The high expectations of these writers have been sorely disappointed by poor and incompetent “editors.” They let those writers down, hard. Here the metaphor reminds us that some biological mothers fail to reach the full potential of their “mothering,” and their children suffer the consequences. Nevertheless, let’s stay positive. There are more good editors and mothers around than bad ones.
Most writers desperately need a mothering editor. I do. I know that I do. I began my professional writing experience over 40 years ago. And I still know that I do. My knowledge and experience emphatically drives home the point: The services of a mothering editor are indispensable for those who would become good writers.
I occasionally ask myself, “How would my writings have developed over the years had it not been for my mothering editor?” The thought makes me wonder, and pensive. I am so glad that the services of my mothering editor are yet accessible. And my, is she competent.
As an African-American author, most times I write black Christian biblical literature. The nature of my written creations requires the qualities of a mothering editor who is at once, biblically and theologically literate, culturally in-depth, mature and sensitive, and spiritually practical. My mothering editor brings to the table competencies in all these areas, and then some. Her experience and editorial work helps to integrate these several streams of my message. She is really good, and expeditious too. Without reservation I depend on her proficient efforts.
Great professional editors demonstrate several qualities of motherhood in their work. A mothering editor is an exceptional professional in her field; she’s a cut above the mediocre rest. She is of the kind who brings to her editing table the experience, virtues and qualities that are most helpful, if not crucial, for inspired writers to write and communicate their message successfully. The outstanding skills, abilities and gifts of a mothering editor show up in a variety of ways.
Some senior editors are in the position to give birth to an idea for a writing project, and they secure a writer for that purpose. Most editors, however, sort of serve as midwives who aid writers in the birthing process of their creation. Once the writer’s idea is born, the work of mothering the young and fresh creation becomes the dominant role. So, whereas a writer usually gives birth to an idea, a mothering editor most often helps the writer give birth to a completed written project that flows from an original draft or manuscript on the idea.
More often than not, a mothering editor will welcome the drafted idea or first-stage manuscript that a writer submits for editing. Depending on her review, she may suggest ways for a writer to give better focus to the topic. Or, in some bitter cases, she will firmly recommend to the writer that he bury a simply bad idea, and quickly make a transition to the next writing project. A mothering editor keeps it real; her honesty will not waste a writer’s time or finances.
A mothering editor keeps a positive perspective on the author’s ideas, research and writing abilities. She believes in the writer, often when no one else seems or wills to care. Intuitively she knows that the prospect of becoming a much better writer awaits the promising future of her growing child—especially if the blossoming author follows her directions, and consistently applies himself while traveling on the pathway of the literary journey.
Just as a natural mother nurtures, guides and teaches her child, a mothering editor works to develop the writer’s idea and draft to suit a clear intent, purpose and audience. She rearranges and presents the writer’s content in a way that benefits the overall picture. She respectfully keeps the writer’s style consistent, and creatively engaging. A mothering editor knows how to skillfully shape creative writing without stagnating the writer’s life-giving streams of thought. She keeps the author’s central message on point.
When it comes to her offspring, a mother teaches, warns and scorns, watches over, heals her young, and the like. So also, a mothering editor straightens out the author’s spelling, grammar, and the ways he forms sentences and paragraphs in the manuscript. She clarifies meanings that have hidden ambiguities; reduces unnecessary emphasis, warns of blind spots, and highlights embedded gems in the story. She makes sure that all things are accurate and correct in their context. And when necessary, she recommends new resource materials for the author to explore as he further investigates his topic. Sometimes she alerts the unsuspecting writer, “Here in the manuscript there is a big problem that’s got to be fixed before you can move ahead.”
Only a mothering editor takes time to encourage a writer to write it over, to write it right, and to refine the writing. (The fly-by-night editors don’t really care; they just take your money and run.) In contrast, as a persistent editor she responds with resilience, just as the mother who instructs her venturing but weakening child, “You can do better than what you’ve done, and I will help you. So let’s keep trying until we get it right. Now let’s do it again, one more time.” A mothering editor spends many hours reviewing the manuscript, tracing its stages, verifying the notes, and making the author’s last-minute “final” changes. She checks, corrects and rechecks it all.
Once in a while, a mothering editor must persuade an unbalanced writer to let it go. Sometimes a writer aspires to the time-wasting and elusive ideal of perfectionism. So, unless someone prods him, on his own he is never able to push himself to write those final words: “The End.” A good editor will sensitively compel the incessant revisionist that the hour is far past for him to put the compositional child to bed, and to rest.
In some instances, the wise mothering editor will simply place the urgent new revision of the continuous writer at the bottom of her workload. She informs the writer that she will eventually get back to it (i.e., “Hurry up and wait!”). On the other hand, she may indicate that due to the extensive length of the project, her consultation fee is moving higher. In all, her motives are good, and her actions are best for the “just-one-more-thing” writer. A mothering editor truly desires to help the addicted perfectionist by moving his work from a phase of perpetual continuation to the desired goal of a completed publication.
A good editor, like a good mother, is certain to review her copyediting checklist before releasing her seed to the public view of their new day and world. She fully prepares and properly dresses her fruit for the right audience, and that special occasion. A mothering editor does her job well by taking the time to craftily fashion the author’s work in a way that makes his message more presentable and attractive to the reading world.
A mothering editor evaluates the writer’s original draft, painstakingly reforms content, proofs and enhances the project, and ushers the author’s finished work into its destined venue. Her labor and enthusiasm reveal a lot about her love, her willingness to work with a struggling writer, and how much she enjoys doing the projects that he has entrusted to her mothering editorial care.
When her work is fulfilled, a mothering editor takes a moment to rejoice over the completion of the writer’s finished composition. She has done her job, and begins to take pleasure in the joy brought to the satisfied author by her unique and distinct contribution. Now it’s time for our mothering editor to celebrate, and for us to celebrate our mothering editor.
In addition to the great tasks they perform day after day, countless mothers also petition the blessings of heaven to cover the precious lives of their maturing children. Likewise, project-by-project, a spiritually-minded, mothering editor prays for her own guidance, and also for her client’s. She talks to God on behalf of the work of her children, and for them too.
Many writers welcome the prayers of their mothering editor. How thankful I am to God for divinely answering the requests of my caring, my mothering editor. Those answers to prayer have often given me strength, and have made a great difference in my life of writing.
All sensible and conscientious writers—those who possess integrity—understand that they should do right by financially compensating a mothering editor. Paying them well is the good and responsible thing to do, and is a requirement of consultation. Moreover, showing appreciation and honor to a mothering editor—for all the hard and considerate work she does behind the scene—is a great commendation and reward.
For these and several other reasons, I take this opportunity to thank the good Lord for the one editor who has done most to assist me in developing my fledgling ideas, and completing my manuscripts. Largely because of her, my writing and publishing are improved; even my presentations, and preparations for preaching are better. Over the years, and project by project, this specialist of the written word has graciously invested her editing intelligence, wisdom and energies to assist me in composing and publishing the literary works of my passion.
So, in this season of Mother’s Day 2016, and by means of these few humble words, I am grateful to honor my mothering editor, Mary C. Lewis. Your words, proofer’s marks and secret imprint show your mothering editorial hand on my books, articles, and other creative forms of written media. These editorial impressions testify volumes about the invaluable services you freely and professionally have given. In my estimation, your editorial work is outstanding. Thank you from my heart for being my mothering editor.
Allow me to bless you, Mary, with the grace of our Lord; and may His sacred peace that is internal, external and eternal—His holistic peace—always be with you. Amen.
May 8, 2022/2016 – Mother’s Day