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  • Writer's pictureHayden Jones

Pay attention: words are more than what they seem


These days when you tell people you're an editor, often their first question is 'Oh a video editor?' I know we live in a very visual era of story telling, awash with videos and films made by anyone and everyone. Yet there's still a central place for editors of words like myself.


Whether you tweet, text a friend or type pages of narrative, you can't do without a working knowledge of your language in the written form. I say "working knowledge" because most people employ language to gain what they want from day to day existence (can you tell I studied sociolinguistics?). Then there's times when people pay close attention to their inner voices, their loved ones or some overlooked aspect of life and they feel the need to write about it.


This art of paying attention* with words is expressed in many forms: books, articles, social media posts, poems and songs, to name the most obvious. At their heart are words, a mix of the common and less common, which are now employed to take a reader or listener to somewhere they don't normally go. I see this transformational process akin to a musician playing around with notes and working them into an original tune. And the result of this labour is a song that makes life sing, like a book or short story that is well structured and the word choices add up to a focused voice that holds your attention.


That's why I love being an editor: helping an author to orchestrate their words to produce moments of illumination, learning, sympathy, disturbance or whatever happens within a reader when their own life experience mingles with the text. It's hard work but certainly worthwhile, a bit like practising an instrument. Speaking of which, it's time to go practice my guitar. Words are great but like anything, I need to shift my attention elsewhere to keep the love alive.


*Highly recommended: a conversation about the lost art of paying attention in this episode of The Minefield (ABC Radio National)


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