In conversations with writers and editors, the talk always slips eventually back to what we do in a general sense. The editorial perspective. We are literary curators, and almost every day I hear something about the “cultural impact” of our work and discuss what is good, what is “truly fine” and excellent writing. Editing is a task of relative evaluation, of careful determining between what is effective, accurate and what is lazy or artificial in writing.
Often I hear from outsiders the complaint that this editorial decision-making is all too arbitrary, too subjectively based on some person’s preference. But the voracious, thoughtful, mind-altering reading we are constantly engaged in would argue otherwise I think. A good editor has a large and very specific framework that she works within, constantly improved and tweaked by yet more reading. This is created through years of discussion, comparison, and the picking apart of similar work. That kind of practiced, mindful evaluating of stories makes an expert out of a casual reader.
Some editors have naturally, or luckily, a knack for the field, but all the good ones work almost feverishly to acquire a reliable sense of what makes a good story. It takes failure, and I’ve felt at times almost overwhelming doubt concerning the weakness of my own mind, that perhaps I won’t ever think with enough clarity, read with enough insight. But when this reliable sense has been achieved, an editor has the chance to impact society and change the thinking of the world by choosing, hewing, honing, and finally offering up a piece of quality literature. I hope to get there someday.
But within these conversations seems to be a spiritual correlation even more critical. In the church, what are we but called to discern what is bad and what is good, to see through the knowledge of God (a gift requiring fervent and constant study) that which is true, to separate it from deception, to understand what matters and focus our lives around it, instead of getting caught up in the best-selling distractions. And we are charged to make use of this knowledge by preaching the gospel, ultimately touching the world in whatever small or large way with the rare and exquisite beauty of God’s accuracy, His plan that we have been given to understand and to share.
Philippians 1:9-11 says,
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.