Midwifing stories

mid·wife – verb (used with object)
3. to assist in the birth of (a baby).
4. to produce or aid in producing (something new)

I’ve gotten some nice compliments over the last year for my fiction editing. People seem to appreciate thoughtful, constructive feedback that respects the essence of their voice and their message. And I’ve discovered that I really enjoy the process of helping people discover what they’re trying to say and finding the most effective way to say it.

It occurred to me that there’s connection between my work as an editor and my work as a doula. A good editor, like a good doula, does not have her own agenda. It’s all about the client: the laboring mother or the laboring writer. Birthing stories takes less physical effort than birthing a baby, but in both cases the vision should belong to the writer or the mother, not the person supporting the process.

English: Title page to Christopher Smart's mag...
English: Title page to Christopher Smart’s magazine, The Midwife. (Public Domain – Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A doula, unlike a midwife, does not perform clinical tasks—she doesn’t check heart rates or have ultimate responsibility for the health of mom and baby. That’s up to the midwife or doctor. Here’s where the analogy breaks down a bit. An editor does have “clinical” responsibilities, if you think of coherence, grammatical fidelity, and sensible structure as vital health measures of a story.

If you had told me twenty years ago that I’d be in a helping profession, one that involves working intensely and intimately with people, I’d have thought you were crazy. I never thought of myself as a “people person.” But now I see the continuity between my lifelong love of editing and my work as a doula. They’re both about supporting, filling in, helping to shape, and, ultimately, about deriving satisfaction from the satisfaction of others.

Fault Zone: Shift is coming

As I write this, the great folks at Sand Hill Review Press are in the final stages of getting the fourth Fault Zone anthology out the door. I was its midwife—um, editor. My amazing assistant editor, Dorcas Cheng-Tozun and I shepherded this collection of stories, poems, and essays into being. We can’t wait to see it in its final form. Stay tuned for release and purchase details!

Schematic diagram of geological fault with thr...
Schematic diagram of geological fault with thrown blocks. (Public Domain – Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What about you? Have you found connections between your work as a writer or editor and other parts of your life? Or experienced a seismic shift lately? Do tell.

7 thoughts on “Midwifing stories

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  1. Interesting post! I think my need to control and improve (former auditor) comes through in how I approach writing. I will go over and over my own drafts until they sparkle. I take a very projecty approach to each part of the writing process. 🙂


  2. I imagine editing the work of others helps strengthen one’s own writing, too. Helps you tuck things away that you might want to try in your own manuscript, I suspect. Much like reading in general.


    1. Absolutely! I am smack in the middle of the “Sixfold” writer-judged contest, and it has been interesting to read a lot of different stories. I even think it has helped me improve one of the weakest parts of my writing–dialogue–by being able to objectively see what works and doesn’t in others’ writing.


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