Reading other people’s stuff…

May 15, 2008 § Leave a comment

Many of us (writers and editors ) yearn and lust to work in major publishing houses, reading great manuscripts, unearthing treasures from the slush pile. I know how stereotypical that is and sounds, even as a dream. Because reading and editing other people’s stuff is work.  I understand that from where I sit as a technical editor. (I would love it  more, though, if NYC was just beyond my office door. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate the birds that sit on my windowsill and all the green that stretches up the hill to the highway.)

In truth, I read other people’s work all day long and work on it, rewriting, editing, massaging and sometimes…honestly…I gotta tell ya, I just let it go. I let their writing go, just as it is, on the page. It’s not wrong, what they’ve written; it’s just not written well and yet… on some days, I leave it alone. There is no time to make it better.  Everyone’s waiting for it, including the person who will run it downstairs to the Fedex box before the evening pickup.

So many people treat deadlines the way they treat getting up in the morning – that is, they wait ’til the last minute before rising and then run around like crazy trying to cram everything into what I call “deadline minutes.” 

The world thinks, assumes or believes that writers write, that they just sit down and the words flow from the pen and poof, there it is and it’s not only correct but it’s somehow great, wonderful – ta da!  And they believe it is better or should automaticaly be better than the stuff that non-writers can do.

No. I take issue with that. It’s not magic. Writing is like any visual art. It is like playing an instrument. It takes practice. It takes time. The creative work does not fall out of us, like a dream, like a work of art and go splat, beautifully, onto the paper. No.

I labored today with some technical writing. With trying to make it pop without making it pop trash. With trying to bring the interest and the point to the fore, without leaving it there, so damn dull and slow that only those that wrote it knows what it means.

I spent two hours on about 700 words. Editing. And still, the writing lies there, not even moving when you stick it with a sharp mind. 

Meanwhile, they cluster at my desk and ask, “Is it done yet?” as though I’m creating and cooking up some sumptuous feast.

……..

HM hugged me when I walked in the door. He’s usually not home before me but tonight he was. “You are the queen of this family, ” he said. “And you’re a fine writer,” he whispered.

My God, that man gets what’s important, and he gets me, too, without me having to even say anything.

Now I turn to my own writing and hope I bring something more to it than attitude.

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