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.
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!
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.