The other day I heard a filmmaker say how hard it was to trim down this short film he’s working on. The rough cut was too long and its pace was too slow, which meant cuts had to be made. The problem? Making cuts meant trashing shots he’d storyboarded, set up, and executed. Every cut felt like wasting the blood, sweat, and tears he’d invested in pre-production and on set.
I know a musician with the same problem—the time and money to write and record songs had already been spent, so why not just release them? They’re not this musician’s best work, but it seems like a shame to keep those songs in the can.
The problem? It’s hard to be your own editor.
The ideal editor, on the other hand, isn’t burdened by these competing loyalties. The ideal editor has a singular focus: pursuing the best possible version of the finished work. This frees the editor to cut, cull, and question without any obligation to preserve those elements of a creative work that cost their creator the most.
I know this creator/editor dynamic is true for me because I spend time on both sides of it. As an editor, I push for clarity and focus and the intent of the piece. As a creator, I find myself irrationally clinging to ideas and stories and turns of phrase. The more I edit and the more I create, the more I realize I need an editor for what I create.
Of course, it’s only natural for us to be emotional and attached and divided when it comes to our own work. We’re humans, and these things are frequent byproducts of the creative process. My point is that it’s enough to give your all to creating your next project; you need not take on the role of editor too. Instead, focus some of your creative energy on finding an editor who’ll help you pursue the best possible version of your work.
Scott McClellan is the Editor of Echo Hub and the Director of Echo Conference. You can follow him on Twitter: @scottmcclellan.