Thursday, April 24, 2008

On Being Edited

After college I moved to Seattle, into a two-bedroom apartment with three girls from school (one of whom slept on the couch in nothing but nylons every night, but that’s another story). At first life was bleak, and not just because of the cramped quarters. I didn’t have a car and the only job I could find was as a sales clerk at Victoria’s Secret. Taking the bus to downtown Seattle to spend the day re-folding undies and bras plucked off the dressing room floor was not, I thought, a good use of my shiny new degree in Journalism.

Then one day I got a break. My roommate, an intern in the PR department at Microsoft, landed me an interview with the Copy Chief of Corporate Communications—the head of all the marketing and communications writers. Despite the fact that I took the wrong bus and arrived late and, perhaps worse, wore a really bad hound’s tooth suit, Tony and I clicked. He had done his graduate work at the same School of Journalism and we shared (and loved) the same advisor. Tony made a call to Dr. White; I'll admit I had been a bit of a teacher’s pet so he gave me a stellar recommendation. I got the job in December of 1988 and thus began my lifelong love of being edited.

The department had an equal number of writers and copy editors, and nothing ever went to print without your editor scrutinizing it several times. This was the best education in writing that I ever had. These copy editors were serious. These people earned their money on my crappy copy. But I loved it. When I’d get a piece back that had been routed through editorial I’d grab a fresh cup of coffee, close the door to my office and pore over the red hieroglyphic marks. Then I’d open the document, make the corrections, and print my deliciously flawless pages.

Until then, I’d never had the pleasure of being edited on a regular, daily basis. I miss it terribly. This piece could definitely have used an editor. To me being edited is like scratching a mosquito bite, the way it feels good and bad at the same time. Sure you feel like an ass for being caught making dumb mistakes, but reading that freshly edited page, free of errors…well, I guess you might have to be a writer to appreciate how that feels a lot like getting into clean sheets that someone else has washed and put on the bed.

Every Wednesday night the Lithia Writers critique group gathers. I love Wednesday, love the writing group, but if I’m honest about what I love most it it’s not the discussion about what I’ve brought, the talk about content, momentum, tension, and all that. No, it’s about Thursday morning when I get a fresh cup of coffee, close the door to my office, and pore over the four new sets of marked-up pages. It’s about scratching that mosquito bite.


bluelikethesky said...

Gawd, you're so right.

Davis Wakefield said...

"Until then, I’d never had the pleasure of been edited on a regular, daily basis. I miss it terribly." Little typo there. But more please on naked nylon sofa sleeper !

Christy Raedeke said...

Thanks Davis, that proves my point! I'd take a Guardian Editor over a Guardian Angel any day.