I completed a round of editing of a manuscript in 2018. Yesterday, the author contacted me. He informed me that over the past year his parents both passed away and that he’d published the first few chapters of his book on his website in honor of his father.

Frankly, I had to skim one of those posted chapters to refresh my memory. I’d forgotten the author’s name, but scanning t the chapter helped me remember. Of course, my memory’s rather like Swiss cheese these days: full of holes. The experts call it “grief brain.” 

I didn’t reply to his message until I’d skimmed that chapter and recalled the book and the author’s identity. Insert a sigh of relief here, because no one likes to think he or she is unworthy of remembrance. We all want to believe we’re unforgettable. Cue Nat King Cole now.

The forgetfulness embarrassed me, but I have to be candid and admit it happened. At least, once reminded of the story, I did recall the client’s story if not so much the client himself. That’s a hazard when it comes to writing and editing: the story (fiction or nonfiction) takes precedence because the writer or editor focuses her attention, time, and energy on the content rather than the client.

I can’t say the story is more important than the client, but the story definitely benefits from sharper recall than the client.

In reviewing the first chapter that I edited for this client, I see errors. Without making the effort to compare the edits made to the published content–because that would take more time and effort than I care to spend on unpaid work–I can’t determine whether the errors are mine (I missed correcting them in editing) or whether the author rejected the correction and/or revised and published without having the content at least proofread. As I have shouted from the proverbial mountaintops, editing is not a one-and-done deal. Editors are human and make mistakes. They miss things. Revision changes things, from focus to meaning, which in turn may disturb the flow and order of the story.

Occasionally, a past client comes back to me. It’s usually because that client liked the work I performed for him and wants to hire me again. Once or twice, the client requested revisions to something I’d written and the client had approved. I tend to be lenient in such circumstances, even though my contract states that I am not obligated to perform any additional work after approval or delivery of the content. This clause saves me from: 1) the obligation of unlimited revisions and 2) unpaid work. My lenience on such infrequent occasions results from a vendor’s attempt to keep a client happy with a hope that the client will eventually hire me for future projects.

This particular client did inquire as to whether I’d be available to edit new chapters added to and heavily revised chapters in his manuscript. He made sure to compliment me first (As I looked thru your edits, I’m amazed at how good of a job you did, thank you.”), a tried and true tactic to get a vendor’s favor and help secure my availability. Who doesn’t like compliments?

I don’t remember everything on which I work nor everyone with whom I work. However, when a blast from the past contacts me, I make my best effort to refresh my memory. If that person made the effort to recall who I am, then I can do no less.