Laura Miller at Salon always has something interesting brewing, and this week it’s an interview with legendary editor, publisher and author Robert Gottlieb. Illustrious as his career has been (he has edited a who’s who of literary luminaries, including Toni Morrison, John Cheever, Salman Rushdie, Doris Lessing, Margaret Drabble, Joseph Heller, etc. etc.) his perspective on his role is refreshingly down to earth: “I love what I do, which is a service job.” It’s true that Gottlieb can afford to be modest, given the hyperarticulate bunch of important cultural figures who comprise his fanclub, but it’s hard to find fault with an editor who believes his job “is to be in sympathy with what the writer is doing and to try to help her or him make it better of what it is, not to make it into something else. Because that way there will be tears.” Or, with respect to the editorial process, “You can take it out, but you can’t put it in.”
I might just embroider that on a throw pillow. Or have it tattooed to my forearm.
Gottlieb was (and still is) a veritable font of solid advice. He told Toni Morrison to quit her day job. He’s advised “generations of writers who have writer’s block, ‘Don’t think about writing. Think about typing.’” Assuming that Gottlieb has not cornered the market on good counsel, and taking a page from Katie Couric (who has cleverly put together a book based not on her own thoughts or experiences but things other people have told her called The Best Advice I Ever Got) what is the best writing related advice you’ve received?