Our friend and writer Alan Jacobs offers his thoughts on What editors think of writers, using as a taxonomy John Simon’s description of working with Auden (sloppy but easy-going), Trilling (willing to be convinced), and Barzun (don’t touch a thing, you inferior being). He describes himself as “definitely a Trilling,” but I would say, having edited him, that he’s a little on the Auden side of Trilling but with a little of the Barzun persona. Or maybe, now that I think of it, it would be more accurate to say that he begins on the Barzun side of Trilling and ends on the Auden.
This, by the way, is a description that would upset some writers — not Alan — who pride themselves on being difficult, because the difficulty they think a marker of their gifts. The real professional engages the editor, assuming he knows what he’s doing and that there’s a reason for his suggestions. The writer may not accept them (I don’t when I’m on the other side of the relation) but he responds to them.
I should add that the taxonomy is incomplete. It doesn’t include, for example, the writer who writes like Auden but acts like Barzun. There are a lot more of these than you might think. And it doesn’t include the writer who writes like Barzun and acts like Auden. Fortunately there are a lot more of these than you’d think.