In the Anglo-American realm, we have witnessed the establishment of the profession of the Consulting Editor – especially in universities (and their publishing houses). “A consulting editor is a non-staff, independent literary editor. This may be an independent, freelance editor, or a scholar providing expertise via consulting,” thus Wikipedia’s brief description of the profession. During recent years, it has repeatedly been my experience that outstanding and unusual projects (exhibits, symposia, special publications etc.) realized by artistic and cultural institutions cannot be carried out by staff alone, as they fall outside the purview of their essential field of competence, thus leading to the necessity of engaging outside specialists.
Mainly due to increased specialization, the trend today is towards hiring generalists outside the company who command wide-ranging contacts and varied methods to provide orientation, guaranteeing not only the optimal direction of content (also in scientific terms), but also an ideal awarding of contracts to authors, graphic designers, agencies etc., and also to ensure the best possible graphic and stylistic design of the product and perfect focusing on the project’s target groups.
Especially in the publishing sector, and increasingly in the German-language countries, support from a consulting editor is frequently sought out, with areas of responsibility described as follows: “Editing is the process of selecting and preparing written, visual, audible, and film media used to convey information through the processes of correction, condensation, organization, and other modifications performed with an intention of producing a correct, consistent, accurate, and complete work. The editing process often begins with the author’s [or client’s] idea for the work itself, continuing as a collaboration between the author [or client] and the editor as the work is created. As such, editing is a practice that includes creative skills, human relations, and a precise set of methods.”
What, however, are those oft-quoted “creative skills”? First of all, it is the ability to shape things – in other words, problem awareness and problem solving – and naturally, it is about a talent for association, originality, expressivity and having ideas, flexibility and the ability to change one’s perspective and combine information in novel ways.
Such creative skills – and the knowledge of how to use the methods in question – form the core of my competencies.
Throughout my long career – I have worked as an editor, managing editor, exhibit curator and leading dramaturge at some of the most renowned Austrian cultural institutions (Orac Publisher, ORF, Konservatorium Wien University, Salzburg Festival, etc.) – these creative skills were in particularly high demand, and I developed them continuously in the various genres (music, theater, fine arts, film, etc.).