I am done “WORKING MY MAGIC*” on your UGLY, f_cked up writing. I’m done “copy editing” (aka rewriting, as is often the case) your nonsense. Done pissing you off w/ perfectly sane questions about the CRAZY SH_T YOU put on paper, trying to make it UNDERSTANDABLE (oh, and maybe relevant?) to your intended audience and ALSO done explaining to you the concept of “your intended audience.” I understand that you’re good at what you do, that you’ve done good, important work in the real world**, but many of you have not learned (to bother) to communicate that work to others, a good many of whom (in our field) have an essentially life-or-death need to know. How is that OK? Well, it’s not. It’s an honest-to-gawd travesty, truly. And I at least am done trying to bridge that gap myself, a compulsion that has left me frustrated, exhausted, and worse: feeling like a complete Olive Oyl (i.e., one incapable of learning her lesson).
(In the scene that always flashes across my mind, I recall Olive’s undignified yelping — “Oh, oh dear! Help!!! Oh dear! Popeye!? Somebody!? Anybody!” — as her legs stretch to two or three times their “normal” length, while the space between the dock that she has one enormous foot on and the boat that she has the other on widens. I can’t find the exact image, but this one from “Seasin’s Greetinks” works just as well. See her face? The panic? The ridiculous predicament she’s gotten herself into, AGAIN? Yes, well that’s me, pretty much exactly, as I “copy edit” your crap, which I realize is really not your fault. But still, I’m done.)
Perhaps you believe that the universe of your work exists somewhere out there, beyond your words, with all its meaning (YOUR meaning) intact. And so if your writing comes close enough to what you want to get across, readers will be able to make it the rest of the way on their own, but I think you’re wrong. I know that even the most motivated readers will not discover your meaning because it’s not there. You have not worked it out for yourself. You have not made the case. You have not communicated. You have not finished the job. And I don’t want to help you fake it anymore with superficial fixes, clever headings, colorful graphics that mean ZERO, etc. — especially when the writing still sucks. Done, I say!
And I feel better now that I’ve realized, or rather admitted, this all to myself. You’ll feel better too, I’m sure, when I STOP asking you to clarify this or that, STOP pushing you to address the gaping holes in your argument, to square your claims w/ the supporting data, etc. I’m not going to panic — just as you’re not. It is, after all, just a New Year’s resolution and you know how they go, but still — here it is for now: no more “copy editing” for me as of January 2015. I like it! I like it a lot! And if I stick with it, it’s really no big deal for you. There are hordes of “copy editors” ready and willing to give you exactly what you want, much better than I ever could. And there are others like me, too, who’d be more than happy to stick it to you when you really need it, when you’re open to it, whatever. I’m done, though, I really do hope…
Yes, this is exactly what I would like for myself (a small but critical part of it anyway) for reasons very similar to those of anyone who makes a resolution. I think by NOT COPY EDITING your crap, I will —
** Be a better — yes, BETTER — person AND parent AND spouse AND friend AND citizen
** Be happier AND more attractive AND healthier AND smarter (or, re: this last one, feel freer to LEAN INTO the smarts I’ve got)
** Have a better attitude toward life’s ups and downs
** Have a much better chance of doing something more suited to me, my desires, my natural skills (I’m absolutely sure I wasn’t born to copy edit, edit, etc., and I do believe I’ve found just the thing … )
I also look forward to not having to pussy-foot around your and other people’s sloppy thinking, sloppier writing, sloppy F_CKING sloppiness. I am sick of saying, “He/she is great at what she DOES, but he/she is just not so adept at putting it into words,” sick of saying it because I usually don’t (IF EVER) mean it anymore, and if I don’t mean it, I shouldn’t say it, right? Right. What’s worse, I doubt it’s always even a question of your ability as much as it’s one of how much you care. And THAT’S the thing that’s really started messing with me: the gawd-awful, lonesome, foolish feeling of knowing, deep down, that I care more than you do about “your” writing. Pussy-footing and all that comes with it (slippery slope there!) = slow but sure soul death.
And taking this step, finally cutting the cord, will help me become a better writer myself, too — I have no doubt. (I’ve picked up some really rotten habits from you!) So I’m hereby dedicating my writing skills, my passion for words and for learning how better to use them and to MAKE THEM do what I know they can do, to the person who can benefit most from them now: ME (2015). I have only five more months to reach my blog’s goal and that work is in the works again! But I will need as much time as I can manage between now and then to even come close to achieving the goal — given my loves, my other priorities, etc.
* * *
I’ll admit I’m writing this today because of an Acknowledgment I received in a recently published article that — while “copy editing ” — I really sweated over. I went back and forth with this “author” who — it became clear — had not even read the piece, submitted by her “in-country” team. And she begrudged my every query, bumming over how the additional investigation required was going to IMPACT her holiday. I pointed out that she was free to ignore my questions and suggestions, but — good for her and OTHERS — she chose not to. And even though she gave me quite a bit of grief at first, she filled those gaps and w/ a lot of rewriting (mostly on my part), we were able to make good sense of the new data. As our collaboration drew to a close, she acknowledged VERY OBLIQUELY her previous unpleasantness and also how much better she felt the paper now was because I pushed as I did. And in the very, very end, in the published article, she acknowledged me for my “copy editing.” Pppfffffftt!!!
Do I sound bitter? I guess I do. Was what happened between this person and me in this instance that different from hundreds of similar situations over the years? No. The relationship between subject matter expert/author and editor is inherently, potentially very complicated. I know this. I’ve known this. I’ve been OK with this for a long time. I’ve done much more for an author with no acknowledgment at all and been OK w/ it. I’m not anymore. And a lot of that is on me, not them. It seems that once you’re more familiar w/ a certain subject matter, it’s more difficult — for me at least — to just “copy edit,” even when that’s what a client specifically requests (often, they don’t WANT you to dig around too much because they know they’ve given you crap). But I’m at a point where (at which…) I’m not satisfied to insert a comma here and delete one there when the whole thing makes no sense. And I can no longer readily switch out my copy editor’s hat for my substantive or developmental editor’s hat (or vice versa).
And that’s what has lead to my resolution, not so much my disgruntlement w/ this particular person in this particular case, but my awareness/realization that I can not stomach simply “prettying” up your piece(s) of sh_t anymore. No. That role is distinctly, definitely, definitively no longer satisfying to me. And while I don’t think the quality or value of one’s life (professional or otherwise) can necessarily be measured solely in terms of their (his/her…) satisfaction/fulfillment, I do think that if one finds this to be their lot, even in part, than that one owes it to herself and every one around her to take it seriously, work toward it, etc. And hip, hip! That one may be me. 🙂
Also, the kind of “copy editing” I’m talking about here, especially for someone who resents my input and ultimately doesn’t understand (or won’t own up to) what I’ve done for their writing, now takes much more from me than it brings. And over time, I think I’ve actually wronged something in me that I want to make right again, if possible, something I believe I need for my own writing, my own well being. Not 100% sure what it is yet.
Anyway, it hasn’t been all bad. Far from it. And there are a few pet points I’d like to bid a special farewell to before filing them away:
- Vague and simple are not the same thing.
- Simple –> good; simplistic —> not good.
- Just because something happened, is factual and true, does not mean that it should be included in a given piece of writing.
- Just because you say so does not make it so (hello Comp 101!)
Sweet, aren’t they? But, ohhhh, round and round I go here. Where’s my editor when I need one?
* * *
Anyway. And …
In conclusion, I do NOT find satisfaction or fulfillment rewriting your pieces of sh_t (that are then published) ONLY TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED for “copy editing” your pieces of sh_t. And if this resolution sticks, I do believe I’ll be better, happier, more attractive, more SUCCESSFUL, etc. By gawd, it’s happening already!!! And you’ll be fine too, fine as you ever was. Heh, heh. All the great work that was done, though, that you had something or other to do with, THAT may well slip into oblivion on the backs of the sloppy verbiage you persist in insisting needs little more than a light copy edit or “minor tweaking.” And THAT will probably never stop bumming me out when I think about it. I’ll need to remind myself that it’s out of my hands now (I’ve done more than enough, more than I should have probably, already***).
Possible resolution for 2016? Limit my bumming out about things that are out of my hands.
* WORKING MY MAGIC — Oh, how I’ve always hated this way (your way) of describing what I do. I am a trained professional, like you, and I assure you that I have no magic at my disposal, not when it comes to editing anyway. 😉 Good editing is hard work (that I’m now done with).
** It’s precisely because what you do is SO IMPORTANT that I’ve hung in there as long as I have with you, tried so hard to help. (But I’m done now.)
*** This is something that probably requires more explanation. Maybe later. For now, I’m done. 🙂
Hey, ho, happy 2015!!!!!!!!!!!