Want to Be a Better Writer? Get a Peer Editor

We writers struggle with ego. Like most creatives, we are neurotic and unpredictable. Sometimes, we can get an unhealthy attachment to our work. As a result, we fail to become the best we could be. All because of pride. How do we break this nasty habit? Get a friend to help.

Peer Editor
Photo credit: Klearchos Kapoutsis (Creative Commons)

This should be someone bold — a person who will call you out and hold you accountable. Not just a copy editor to watch for typos, but someone who will tell you you could do better.

But most writers won't do this. They'll think they're good enough on their own. And they will be deceived.

Most writers settle

They coast on “good” because they can. This is what talented people do: they procrastinate and settle for less than their best. Usually, it's due to laziness. But “good” isn't good enough. You want to do more than maintain the status quo, right?

You want to be great. Because you've got something amazing to say. Something that will change people's lives. If they only took the time to hear it. Don't you?

Isn't that why you started writing in the first place — to say something worth listening to? (If not, you might reconsider your motivation. Or just quit now.)

You need to grow

In order to earn the right to speak to your audience, you need to develop you craft. Being “pretty good” just won't cut it. You need to be awesome.

In order to be a great writer, you need an editor. This should be someone who will tell you the truth about your writing. They need to not blow smoke up your butt.

You need a person you can trust. So that when this person criticizes your work, you know it's not to tear you down, but to build you up. Sometimes, this is the only way we grow — with the help of others.

Ask a peer for help

For a good editor, I suggest a peer — someone who knows you and your work well enough to speak into both. This person should be someone you respect and trust. You two should be able to stand each other.

At the same time, you don't have to be all “buddy buddy.” Your editor needs to be able to be honest without having to face the consequences of losing an important friendship.

You need someone who is bold and blunt. But they also need to understand you. So it can't be a stranger. You need an editor who will challenge you to write more than a first draft. Because the first draft is usually crap.

This person is different from a simple copy editor; they're a friend, confidante, and trusted advisor.

We can all get better

We need to come off our high horses and humble ourselves. We need people who will force us to set aside ego. To stop settling and get better. For the sake of a message that deserves to be spread. We need a community to encourage us.

We need help improving our art. And the only way that happens is when we let go of our pride and listen to others.

So do what you're afraid to do: get an editor. And get on your way to becoming great. Which, of course, applies to a lot more than writing.

For more on peer editing, here's a helpful guide: Guidelines for Peer Editing

Do you have a peer editor? How does this person encourage and challenge you? Share in the comments.