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How to be invisible

Once upon a time--when the kids were young and phones were fastened to walls, in the days before computers, scanners, image editing software, and other wonders we now take for granted--I was asked to combine 60 self-portraits, drawn by three and four-year-olds, into one tea-towel sized image, with names of course. If you've ever looked at a three-year-old's self-portrait, you'll know it might be very strange and singularly oddly designed. Taking 60 such images, shrinking them down, fitting them together like a jigsaw... it was a time-consuming task. And I felt much like an art forger, trying to guess for each child, how did they hold the pencil, where did they first put it down, which way did they lean, how hard did they press, and how did they make that swirling shape at the end... After all, my job was to disappear, and only the children's artwork should be seen.

Now I edit essays and novels, and sometimes feel that same sense of forgery, learning the sound of the author's voice, the way they put down words, which way their sentences lean, how fiercely they press their ideas, and wondering, was that swirling word at the end an accident or design?

Just as my job was to disappear in creating that wondrous tea-towel, so now I try to vanish again, hiding behind the author's voice, making the work more completely theirs, not mine. I hope I succeed. And I really enjoy the task. I really believe, editors should be invisible.

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