My mother, Rebecca, was a librarian and a voracious reader. She was happiest with her nose in a book, and she knew how important it was to read to us when we were young and to instill in us her same level of intellectual curiosity. This was one of the greatest gifts she gave to us: the confidence to read, write, and excel in our studies.
Books were not to be read simply for the sake of having something to do, though that was certainly one way to keep us calm and quiet. Rather, reading trained us how to write, and therefore, how to comprehend the written word of others and express in writing our own thoughts and feelings. My brother and I were fortunate enough to attend schools known for their academic excellence, and we learned from our parents and our teachers what it took to be a successful student. This included the mechanics of writing, and I took to writing more than most other subjects. I had overwhelming performance anxiety and was terrified of speaking in public, but as a young girl, I desired a creative outlet where I could process the world in which I was living, learning, and growing.
The stage where I felt safest was a blank sheet of paper and a pen. This was where I could share who I was becoming. Still, to this day, I wrestle with sharing my work in public spaces, but in private, the words are there. Someday, I will publish my own book.
In my many years as a student, I learned to extend beyond what came easiest to me—written personal reflections—and strengthen my skills as an academic. I learned the APA guidelines to help me refine my style of writing, I formatted course papers to align with the standards of the academic community, and I created an editing process for my own work that proved to be successful for grade school papers, my master’s thesis, and my doctoral dissertation. It required a level of focus and attention to detail that I’d always had, and I loved it.
Friends and colleagues who were pursuing their graduate and doctoral degrees often contacted me with writing- or formatting-related questions. Supervisors forwarded me website copy, email correspondence, or assessment reports to edit before distributing to the public. I had a skill that I loved to use to help others, and yet I never once thought about editing as a career.
Editing had been a side hustle. Then, life took a turn for the worse, and I left my full-time position as a university administrator to provide care for my ill parents and grandmother. During this time, to keep one foot in education and to maintain my sanity, I edited.
I learned a lot on those first few papers, and I talked to dozens of doctoral students about what they needed most as they navigated the academic writing process.
Students who had already completed their degrees shared that their editing process felt transactional—they sent their paper to someone with whom they’d never spoken, and the editor sent the paper back with an invoice. In many cases, the final product was not at the level of quality desired by the student, and in some cases, students had to hire a second editor to help fix the first editor’s errors or lack of attention to detail. I was appalled.
Students who were trying to complete their degrees felt they did not have the support they needed to learn what they needed to know to write well as an academic. This lack of knowledge affected their confidence as a student and increased their stress and anxiety, making it that much more challenging to push forward and complete their coursework or degree program.
It became evident that there was a need in the community, and within a couple of months, I determined that what would benefit students even more than an editor was a writing coach who could provide support and guidance on a single writing project or throughout the student’s entire academic program. What if I could provide students with the support and education they needed earlier to avoid the unnecessary stress of substantive (and expensive) editing at the end of the dissertation process?
I wanted to help students, faculty, and academic and career professionals learn and become more confident writers, and I wanted them to feel supported and encouraged. The name needed to reflect this purpose, or the “why” behind what I wanted to accomplish.
On a rainy afternoon at a coffee shop in Portland, OR, I sat for hours weighing the pros and cons of various name options for this initiative. Exhausted and concerned that I would not find the perfect name, I looked up from my laptop and noticed shelves filled with t-shirts, coffee mugs, and market totes, all bearing the word “Heart” for Heart Roasters where I was spending the afternoon.
Heartful Editor was born with a mission to provide coaching and editing with love.