Imposter Syndrome in the Editing Field

By Miranda Lukatch on Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Do you suffer from imposter syndrome? Imposter syndrome is the condition when people feel like none of their qualifications or accomplishments are good enough, no matter how good they may actually be. It affects everyone, but it especially affects women, and it particularly affects freelance editors.

I was thinking about why this is. For me at least, the fact that there were no set paths or no set certifications or courses one must have to be an editor was anxiety-producing. I needed external standards. One could argue that editors gradually learn what these standards are through talks with other more experienced editors, but that takes time. The fact is, you can hang out your shingle and call yourself an editor with absolutely no training at all. This is a rookie mistake (one I made years ago), but people will still hire you, although it may take luck to find them.

To some extent, this is the beauty of editing too. Editing is a field that is somewhat open to all, and there are many ways to become successful in the profession—if you are creative enough, you can write your own ticket.

On the other hand, proper training and proper business set up and maintenance take money. Some people may consider the amount trivial. It certainly has not been trivial for me. And the longer it has taken me to amass the resources to get that training, the worse my imposter syndrome got.

I wish there were more scholarships in the field. This is of particular concern now as publishing tries to solve its diversity problem. Greater financial aid would mean more opportunities for some editors of color, for example. I know ACES has some scholarships, and there are prizes, but this is a field that has virtually no financial aid. The University of Washington offers scholarships, but that's it.

Want to go to the Graham School or UC San Diego or Berkeley for an editing certificate? Good luck! Some professional organizations offer discounts to these programs, but then you have to be able to afford memberships. Some people can't, even if an organization offers a senior or student rate. It's my considered opinion that there should also be special rates for people with disabilities, who are more likely to be self-employed due to difficulties finding traditional employment. So, let's start a conversation. CWIP has a LinkedIn group where you can post your answers to the following questions: What can we as editors and we as publishing professionals do to make our field more equitable? How can we achieve greater parity?

An independent editor, Miranda Lukatch has experience in copyediting and substantive editing. She has worked on books, journal articles, and other materials for scholarly and general audiences and is transitioning into editing fiction, memoir, and children’s literature. Also an author, she has plans for her own memoir, several children’s books, and a nonfiction work about Florence Nightingale and Clara Barton.

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