Besides setting my alarm clock an hour or two before I’m ready to wake up, I have a strange habit that I repeat over and over again. This particular habit is often triggered by such things as free time, sudden inspiration, and contentedness. What I’m speaking about precisely is the creation of personal projects or the joining of organization. Recently, I’ve joined three separate editorial staffs. One group deals with children literature. The second focuses on technical writing. My third group is a local news magazine for my campus. I have the habit of getting myself involved in all types of literary stuff. Not intentionally. I don’t try to become a literary person, which may be hard for me to defend after proving that I am indeed literarily involved.
I’ve felt the grooves of editing. It’s something I feel competent in and have little patience for. When I worked on a staff as an intern, I was shocked how babied my writers were and often was uncompromising with their work giving them horrible scores and reviews and demanding of rewrites. But I was horrified by the writing. It shocked me: “How on earth could someone give this to me as a final draft?” I’d ask. “This certainly is a good journal entry, but it’s an awful final draft.” But of course, I worked on the least favored position with the least favored writers, and so I had that much more work to do along with my general education classes, which landed me working many late evenings in the office alone. I ended up quiting once the head editor was released, and the paper suffered due to this shuffling of editors. Too much miscommunication. Too little information concerning my responsibilities. And too much time spent working! Perhaps a colleague of mine is reading this. And if he (she) is, please be assured that I was never directly frustrated with you but rather the whole thing and would’ve rather been in Chicago. At least there I didn’t feel so direction-less.
In Chicago I didn’t manage to edit anything. I was invited to work on a few papers and magazines, but I turned them down hoping to do it again later. This never came about. Instead, I wrote quite a bit. Let me remind myself as I tell you: I am not primarily a writer. My writing is flawed. It goes all over. And yet I love it. I love that journalistic style, but I would never love it as an editor. And so I understand if this goes unread.
Yet with editing, I feel like I have direction when I have the power to grab hold of a few well-written sentences and smooth them out into magical literature that they deserve to be. I also like filling in the blanks, reviewing the information, correcting political bias, and then having a staff of peer-reviewers to go through. A peer-review has saved me many times. And I never go without appreciating an article, giving someone a chance to meet someone famous, or finding that one little bit of prose that just makes everything worth it. I love assigning projects and themes and topics and interviews. I love getting a pile of papers on the deadline and then preparing them for the next day. Why? I don’t know. I can hardly prepare everything for the deadline. Why would I love it so much?
I suppose it’s part of this web I have weaved for myself at a very young and impressionable age when the Dead Poets Society still meant something emotionally significant for me. I had this very romantic idea about literature simply because I didn’t understand it. I didn’t care about it, and so I read all of it, soaking it up with sheer arrogance and delight. This might be the best way to suck up information — with a large dose of arrogance, but I can’t say that I did this all very romantically. I put a lot of hard work into my craft, which I owe to the few teachers who’d pound on me: “Once you learn the craft, you can destroy the art.” I didn’t understand that, but I’m grateful that I took the time to read classics, Greek poetry, contemporary novels, modernists, Edgar Allen Poe, and a horde of bad literature. It gave me the teeth to devour literature with and gave me the thirst for more.
And I suppose I am suspending in this awful state of never having enough literature to read, never having enough literature to work on, and never having enough literature to review. I’m just fortunate to have been in love with the petty romanticisms of this process early on so that the magic somehow sticks today yet not quite the same but only better than it was before. At the age of 14, I thought I was at the prime of my literary excellence, but this is certainly untrue. So I can only look forward to days where I will perhaps have the patience to write a novel or actually be paid for this type of work in one medium or another. Because I promise you that today is not the prime of my literary excellence but only a stepping stone towards something more grandiose than even I expect.