What Editing is Supposed to Be

I had a rather unusual pleasure today.  I edited a piece for a friend.

Now this chick can write. Funny?  Oh very yes!  Clear?  Yep.  Has a specific voice.  My goodness yes.

So, when I saw it and asked if I could edit it, it wasn’t because what she did sucked.  It was because it was good and just needed a few rough edges sanded down and polished.

Something that is a real myth about the writing world is that an editor will just ruin your piece.  I even believed it for awhile.  Blame it on some of Heinlein’s snarky comments if you want.  But the truth is that no editor wants to ruin your piece, kill your voice or anything like that.  That’s not the editor’s job.

It’s the editor’s job to make you look brilliant. Well, insofar as possible.  Can’t make bricks without straw.  But what an editor wants is for anything that passes her desk to be readable, instructive, entertaining or whatever might be the goal of the publication.

Her comment was, “Oh wow. Ok that’s amazing. I totally see. You sort of turned it into the piece I wanted it to be in the first place with the editing.”

That means I managed to do my job in working on it!

Passion, Payment and Profit

I am psycho busy with work and clients.

This is a good thing, mind you.  It means money, the projects I have are interesting and they’re practice in things that make more money than SEO, but I’ve felt intimidated in trying to do.  I’ve made a note that I need to write up an “intake” type questionaire for press releases and money raising pitches.  This client seems to be tolerant, but I think I’d do better, and get work done faster if I have a standard questionaire for this sort of thing.  I think it’d make the client more comfortable to have more structure when it comes to giving direction as well.

Even with being so busy, I’m making a commitment that if I do no other housework at all, I will tidy up the clutter that accumulates through the day for a few minutes each evening.  It’ll keep me from feeling out of control from visual clutter.  Now, I have been able to keep up on routines, but to be frank, unless clutter and mess starts interfering with my thinking and mood, work is far more important.

I was talking to The Bird the other day while in Borders.  (If I have a lot of work to do, I often take the kids to Borders so that we can sit down and have a snack, then I can work and they can read and hang out in a place they like).  She asked me how I felt about writing in a bookstore and being a writer.  I told her that while I really do love to read, and I enjoy books, it’s very hard not to point to the shelves and go, “Yep, that’s product. Product over there…”

I’ve stopped seeing the printed word as something elevated or holy.  I know what this really means is that I’ve become a hack.

Know what?  In a lot of ways I’m proud of that.  Hack writers do make a living doing it and that’s a cool thing.  (As long as you’re making that living.  When you’re not, it can be stressy as hell!)   Even after three years of taking the leap, I get up in the morning and bid on projects or answer client email or sit down to work, but I bounce up and down in the chair a little thinking “This is really cool.”  I saw someone from my old job and when she asked how I was doing since I left, I could say in all honesty, “I’m doing really well.  I love what I do.”

So, while I don’t see books as quite as holy, I find the process and day to day job of being a “real” writer1 even more amazing than ever.  There’s a sense of wonder about it for me.  I really do this.  I write, I get money, I buy groceries with that money.   But in spite of the mundaneness of what I do, it feels like the end of Beauty and the Beast or something, with the majestic music playing and the thorns turning to roses and the light flooding the entire castle.  I have to remind myself that it’s real.

The funny part is that it wasn’t luck or someone waving a magic wand or anything like that.  I just decided one day, “I will do this” and then did.  I got scared and felt insecure, bit my nails wondering if I’m good enough, all of that.  Hell, I still do.  But it’s one hell of an adventure.

That adventure isn’t specific to being a writer, though.  I mean, that’s what resonnates with me, but people’s tastes are different.  I think the adventure part comes in when you love to do something so much that you just dive into it with no idea in the world whether or not you’ll succeed or fail, but with the total abandon.  Sometimes you fail at this.  I’ve dived into things and hit rocks.  Don’t think I haven’t.

But oh, when you find clear water and depths, it’s so very, very good.

1Please understand that I’m not saying people who don’t write professionally can’t be “real” writers. This is a phenominally subjective thing. For me, it meant making a living at it. It was my goal from the time I was in my late teens. If what makes you feel like a real writer is sitting down and, well, writing, then yes, you get to call yourself a real writer.

Why yes, I DO find it weird

Hey, you women out there.  I got one for you:

You know if a guy grabs the butt of a woman he finds attractive and when she objects he’ll make the, “It’s the testosterone, I couldn’t help it” excuse?

Know how we don’t have any real sympathy for that?

Then why should we expect sympathy for flying off the handle at our hormone cycles?  Why should the menstrual cycle give us a free pass?  Don’t get me wrong, my moods are very much hormonally-driven.  I just don’t think that me being mean in the face of that is excusable.  I feel like I’m a grown up and responsible for my behavior.  If I pull the “I’m at the mercy of my hormones” card, and then expect a man not to, then what I’m really saying is that as a woman I’m not as much of a grownup.

I’m not into that.  I think expecting all the grownups to be grownups whether they’ve an innie or an outie is what makes the most sense.

And since we’re all human as well, yes, apologizing when one screws up[1] is a good idea, too.  “I’m sorry, I was wrong to do that, and I’m going to try to do better” should be in all our repertoires.

[1] Not if.  When.  We all do screw up.