Red ink. I think teachers still use it, in one form or another. When I was at school, it took the form of scrawled words, exclamation marks and even, in some cases, nasty red blots, deposited with apparent abandon over my carefully prepared homework. Not nice... though I expect it sometimes did me good. But I still shudder at the sight of a heavily corrected piece of my own writing. The difference is, these days, the corrections are often my own.
I think many of us feel the same. When we get comments from an editor, a reviewer or a potential agent or publisher, our natural inclination is to feel wounded. We've been mauled - or our precious work-child has been, which can feel even worse. And we sometimes hold back from giving those comments to a fellow writer, for fear of hurting their feelings and crippling their creativity.
We are told to toughen up. Grow a thick skin, the writing manuals advise. Er, yes? Can anyone tell me where to find the switch that switches on the gene to grow that thick skin? If I could find it, I'd have done it years ago.
So, what is the answer? Stop sending out our work? Not use an editor before publishing, because we fear his or her red-inky scrawlings all over our work? Not an ideal solution. It would be a terrible shame to put out work of an inferior standard because of our fear of corrections.
Perhaps it really is time to put behind us those teachers who scribbled, often illegibly, all over our hard work. I believe teachers nowadays offer a lot more in the way of encouragement than they did back in our day (I'm talking 1960s here...) Perhaps the current generation of students does not fear red ink (or even red font) the way we do. I'm not sure.
Anyway, to anyone who is hovering on the edge of sending their work to an editor, copy editor or proofreader, let me say, 'Please don't let your fear of red ink stop you.' Even authors who have been published many times need an editor. Even best-selling writers need editors (some more than others, no doubt). If we could see the red ink they effectively scrawl across their famous clients' manuscripts, we might be surprised. We might even feel better about our own work.
So don't it stop you. Remember, too, that most professional editors don't have the sharp, sarcastic tongues of a housemaster at Billy Bunter's Greyfriars School (remember, anyone? Mr Quelch?) I digress... Most of us are finicky, fussy and pedantic, but also kind. Many of us are writers, so we are used to being kind to ourselves. Perfectionist, perhaps, but kind.
I greatly enjoy reading much of the work my clients send me - and I make a point of telling them so. Anyone (well, any trained, experienced editor) can correct a bit of faulty grammar or point out a potential plot glitch. Only a creative genius can write a story, poem or book. And that creative genius, however much red ink you pick up on the way, is you.
PS If you'd like to read more about what I can offer you in the way of editing or proofreading, click here.