Writer/Editor

My business card says Alina Sayre, Freelance Writer/Editor. 
It doesn’t say that those two halves of my brain have separate personalities. 
But before you ship me off to the asylum with multiple personality disorder, I’d like you to meet them. 
The writer in me is named Cordelia, after Anne from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (played by Megan Follows in the 1985 film). At her first meeting with her new guardian, Marilla, eleven-year-old Anne introduces herself this way:

“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she said eagerly.
Call you Cordelia! Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”
Cordelia is a dreamy, imaginative person with plenty of capacity for feeling and believing. She watches the habits of people and observes the world with eyes hungry for detail. No nook or cranny is too obscure to find wonder there. Sometimes she gets carried away with wild schemes, like dyeing her hair green, or flies into unexpected rampages, but overall she is a poetic and reflective person. She lets beauty “soak into her soul” and makes up stories about herself, her family, the neighbors, and any interestingly unsuspecting person. Consider yourself warned.
The other half, Madame Editor, is a middle-aged Victorian woman named Aunt Josephine (played by Meryl Streep in the film version of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events). Her watchword is:
“Grammar is the greatest joy in life, don’t you find?”

Aunt Josephine’s idea of a good time is an afternoon spent adjusting commas in accordance with The Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed., of course). She flinches at the improper use of their/there/they’re and goes into raptures over a sentence that diagrams correctly. Her ideal man is one who says, “Why…grammar is the number one, most important thing in this here world to me” (even if he turns out to be a sham fisherman). 

How these two people co-exist inside my head is a mystery to me. They certainly don’t get along very well. Both are high-strung and occasionally fly into a temper when their opinion is contradicted. I’ve learned that the key to a happy mental life and successful writing sessions is to keep them apart. Do not cross this line. Do NOT cross this line. 

When I’m writing, usually Cordelia gets to come out first, because Aunt Josephine isn’t actually very good at coming up with original sentences. Cordelia, by contrast, could gush out words until the moon turns blue. With over 500,000 English words to choose from and an innumerable number of life observations and human subjects to choose from, she can imagine herself into any world she chooses at any time of day. But eventually it’s time for her to come away from the keyboard and give someone else a chance.

Then Aunt Josephine comes out to play. While she may look like an ogre as she ruthlessly slashes away, cutting out whole words, sentences, and paragraphs, she actually has a huge respect for writing and language. She simply believes that language forfeits its full power if it is overused or improperly used. Brevity is the soul of wit, and good grammar doesn’t hurt either. Sometimes she bosses Cordelia into submission, but when the dust settles, they usually agree that the end manuscript is better for their joint efforts. 

I saw a cartoon where a pencil point and its eraser were having dinner together. On the phone, the pencil point says, “Can I call you back? I’m having dinner with my editor.” Life in my brain is like that. As long as the two halves of the pencil work separately and respect each other’s abilities, they continue to co-exist safely and (sometimes) happily.



Does your brain have multiple sides to it? How does it help or hinder your creative process?

4 thoughts on “Writer/Editor

  1. HAHAHA. Superb examples to showcase your two personalities. Mine aren’t quite so separate. My editor has OCD and is constantly jumping in front of the writer’s train tracks, arms splayed wide, shouting, “WAIT!”

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  2. I do find it hard to go from revising/editing my fiction to writing a raw first draft. It’s a lot harder to turn off my Editor Brain than it is to turn off my Footloose & Fancy-Free Creative Writer Brain.I love the names and personalities of yours!

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    1. Thanks, Rabia! I think it’s harder to switch off Madame Editor because she’s so analytical. Cordelia is much more natural for me, which means it’s hard to go back to autopilot once I’ve switched to manual.

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