Life Lessons (from Disney)

Since Cinderella taught me the importance of having distinctive footwear, I have been of the firm opinion that almost all of life’s lessons can, in one way or another, be learned from Disney films. And I’m glad to report that this theory can be extended to my new career. Here are some of the things that freelance editors can learn from Disney characters.

Cogsworth, Beauty and the Beast.

Oh, Cogsworth. So correct, so precise. Always following the rules. If he’d had his way, Belle’s father would have been sent on his way and Belle never would have met Beast. You might think that an editor should be a rule-follower – after all, what’s the point in paying someone if they’re not going to fix all your errors? But sometimes, especially when editing fiction, sticking too rigidly to the rules and guidelines can suck the life out of a manuscript, take all the sparkle out. Like Cogsworth, you find that when you allow a little transgression here and there, something magical can happen.

Maui, Moana.

Poor Maui. He worked so hard creating all those wonderful things for humans, just so they would love him. And in his desperation for adulation, he went too far and ruined everything. Why couldn’t he just be happy with the beauty and wonder he’d made and enjoy other people enjoying it? Getting praise and acknowledgment from an editing client is wonderful and gives you warm and fuzzy feelings. But if you want the world to give you credit for making the book the thing it is today, then you’re in the wrong job. And if, as an editor, you overreach, you steal the heart of the book and everything turns black and dies. (Too far? Yeah, I took the analogy too far, didn’t I?)

Elsa, Frozen.

Poor Elsa. She thought hiding away from everyone and everything was all for the best, but her problems only magnified until they were uncontrollable. She thought she needed to be alone, when it was the worst thing she could have done. Freelance life can be very lonely at times, and even when you do find people to hang out with, online or in person, it can be hard to show them your vulnerabilities. But, as Elsa found, letting people in can make you stronger, and help you achieve so much more than you could on your own.

Rapunzel, Tangled.

Rapunzel dreamed of a life outside her tower, but she always believed Gothel’s words of caution about staying there where it was safe. Until an opportunity presented itself, and she grabbed it. Ditching a steady, secure job for the uncertainty of freelance life is absolutely terrifying. But if you don’t swing your hair over that hook and make that leap, you’ll never know what’s out there.

Aladdin, Aladdin.

Nobody thought Aladdin was prince material, because of where he came from. But Aladdin was resourceful, quick-witted and compassionate, qualities essential for a life on the streets of Agrabah. At times, it can feel like you don’t belong in the world of publishing, because you came from somewhere else. Everything is unfamiliar and intimidating, and it’s tempting to pretend you’re someone you’re not in order to get by in this strange new world. But, like Aladdin, you’ll always get found out in the end. Use the skills you have, draw on the experience you have, and don’t let anyone make you feel you don’t belong there.

Joy and Sadness, Inside Out.

Joy was always trying to keep Sadness pushed to the sidelines, thinking Riley would do better if her life contained only happy moments. But it was a futile effort. There will always be difficult moments, and when setting up a business in an entirely new field, there are going to be a LOT of them. But the bad times shape us as much as the good. It’s not going to be all sunshine and rainbows, and that’s okay.

Ariel, The Little Mermaid.

We can learn a lot from Ariel. Firstly, never sign a contract without really thinking it through. And secondly, take advice from people who know what they’re talking about. There’s a lot of advice out there, and it can be difficult for a new editor to figure out whose is really worth taking. But it’s important to try and find reliable, trustworthy sources of information, otherwise you’ll end up combing your hair with a fork.

(And I’m putting this here just because I like it)

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