Sunday, January 11, 2009

Window Washers - Which Kind Are You?

Morgan Mandel

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On my way to work, I noticed a window washer in a bucket dangling outside an office building. I hadn't thought about it before, but window washers are like writers.

There are many varieties. I've listed three of them, but you may be able to identify more. Their order is no reflection on which category is better. Here are the types:

Category 1 - People who diligently wash their windows. They take pride in their windows' appearance and want them to look perfect. Even if others don't notice, if they see specks of dirt, they feel compelled to clean the windows again and again. They do this constantly, sometimes missing out on fun things in their quest for perfection.

Category 2 - People who wash their windows for special occasions or when they have extra time. They like to see the windows look good, but don't dwell on them if they aren't perfect for the time being. They know the windows will eventually get done when the time is right. There are more fun things to do than concentrating on windows every minute.

Category 3 - People who hire other people to clean their windows. They may not have the time or the expertise to do the job properly, but they have enough sense to know the windows need to get cleaned. If they hire a person with the right qualifications, the windows will sparkle just as brightly as those of the other window washers.

You may have guessed whom these window washers represent. If you haven't, I'll tell you.

Category 1 - Authors Plagued by Inner Editors. They constantly revise and edit as they go along. It takes a long while to get their manuscripts right. Sometimes they're hampered by their approach because it's hard to be perfect. If they keep at it, they'll eventually get their manuscripts ready. Their reward is knowing they've done all they can and their manuscripts are all they can be. I'm afraid I fall into this category, although I wish I didn't. I'm trying to be a Category 2 author.

Category 2 - Authors Who Plough Ahead and Get Their Manuscripts Done. These authors get into the zone and allow ideas to flow freely. When their manuscripts are finished, they go back and look up references, check grammar, structure, and other fine points. They've had a fun ride and everything still turned out all right at the end.

Category 3 - Authors Who Hire Editors. Some authors are not confident of their ability to knead their manuscripts into shape, don't have time, or would prefer to spend their time creating. Editing is a tedious chore they'd rather avoid. They look for an editor who knows what to do and gets the job done right. That editor will get paid. The author will get a clean manuscript. Everyone will be happy.

Where do you fit? Please share.


  1. Morgan, I am definitely a category 2 writer! I've worked with category 1 writers and all I have to say is I'm glad I'm not one- it is tortuous.

    Thanks for the fun post.

  2. Morgan,

    Mark and I are primarily category 2 writers. Once we complete the fun exercise of letting words flow onto the page, we begin the editing process. However, when we get to the point of arguing, I mean discussing, the same commas/words/points on each pass, it is time for a professional editor's hand.

  3. As with most things in life I find myself in a category by myself. I've never washed a window in this old house but there isn't a window that works. I hire an editor or I did for my last book. This time I'm winging it, if I ever do another book. At the moment it seems unlikely.

  4. Hi Morgan, I'm a category 2, which you made sound wonderful, thank you. I've been feeling guilty for years that as a category 2 my final manuscript is never as good as a category 1. But, since I'm incapable of being a category 1, I've learned to live with the guilt. Now maybe I can shed it altogether. :)


  5. Hmm, I think I'm a two, with leanings toward 1 and sometimes 3. :)

  6. I'm a cross between 1 and 2. I write. When I'm finished for the day, I read what I wrote & do some editing. The next day, I re-read what I wrote the day before, do any editing, then write new stuff, etc. If I'm ever stuck, I'll go back and start at some point like the beginning of the chapter or the beginning of a series of events & re-read, which will usually help me get unstuck.

    But the big edits which involve multiple readings of the entire manuscript wait for the end, after it's all written.

    I'm pretty much the same way about my windows. They usually get done when I know I'll be having company. But I have been known to get so tired of looking through rain splattered glass, that I'll head out and do them.

  7. I'm in category 2 as a writer. But as a window washer I'm in category 4. My windows are filthy.

  8. Windows? What window? I'm too busy writing and living in my inner world to care what's going on outside.

    And don't even ask about my lawn. . . .

  9. I should clarify.

    As I writer, I'm category 1, but trying to be a 2.

    As far as my windows at home, I don't remember when I washed them last.

    Morgan Mandel

  10. Definitely a category 2. I'm with Nancy on this one. Besides, I've traded first reader and editor shifts with other writers, so it all gets done.


  11. I fall between 1 and 2 somewhere. If I need to though I wopuldn't be opposed to being a 3 for the final run through.

  12. Great post! I'm a category 1 for now, sad to say. Trying to change my ways, however. I've added some thoughts on this post at my blog (with reference to this one of course). Check it out:

  13. :) I'm a category 2. I'm always of the philosophy that it's better to have a whole first draft to edit than to be constantly editing.

  14. This blog made me smile and the comments remind me that I'm not alone as a category 2. It's discovering what happens next that keeps me writing.


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