Friday, September 20, 2013

Make Out or Get Out, Said the Writer to the Editor




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You know what they say about how tough times brings out the truth in situations? Well, I don’t know about the truth, but it does bring out a bunch of realizations that makes things a bit clearer for you.

One of the things I learned about myself during one of my tough patches in life had something to do with work. I rarely talk about stuff like that here, since I don’t want work to take over my entire life any more than it already has. But sometimes, my work jumps the fence into the lawn of my hobbies, and one of my hobbies is writing, so.

Anyway. I run a writing and light marketing outfit from home. Part of my job involves writing, and the other part involves editing. I started out writing for a variety of clients, and when I started having too many orders for me to handle on my own, I started getting people to write for me, and I began editing their work. I figured I used to edit in my old job anyway, so how different was this going to be?

cat in trouble

Boy, did I walk into that one.

Well, it was a whole new world of hurt, so to speak. It’s not that other writers can’t write (although some of them really can’t) – it’s more of you can’t harmonize your style with theirs, and it ends up becoming a whole big mash of rice and goop in your bowl. This wouldn’t be much of a problem if you were a Filipino, but most people outside of the Philippines – or Asia, even – like their food neatly separated into recognizable chunks.

I always thought that I was better at editing than I was at writing, since writing actual commissioned pieces took me ages when I’m not “in the zone”, whilst I could zip through a piece in about fifteen minutes. But what I didn’t bank on was that some of the writers I had weren’t exactly properly educated in the nuances of the English language, and would write such horrendous statements like the one below:

“It is, really, fun making pots. There are two (2) basic ways of completing pottery. In the easier, these objects are made from wet clay, shaped in desired forms on a kickwheel (potter’s wheel) and then baked in a kiln or oven. Results are the practical products such as bowls, dishes, flower vases and indoor or outdoor lamps.”

And that’s one of the more acceptable people I had to work with. That’s an easy fix.

Pretty soon, my editors and I found ourselves swimming with piece after piece with this kind of gobbledygook. But the shit really hit the fan when all of my editors were out for the week, and I had to go through all of the remaining articles.

All. By. Myself.

all by myself

Enjoy it while you can, kid.

It was then and there that I made the realization that I was kidding myself when I said that I edited better than I wrote. I edited good writers better because they were good to begin with. The lousier writers were painstaking headaches to deal with, so much so that I increasingly found myself staring at the ceiling instead of at the computer, so desperate was I to get away from the workload in front of me. I lost my patience, and I wanted to find the writer wherever he was, sit him down, read his work to him, and demand an explanation (because I didn’t understand his sentence construction at all).

I somehow powered through that excruciating experience (don’t ask me how; I wouldn’t be able to answer you), but I made a decision from that day forward that I would stop editing, unless it were necessary. I could pump out eight articles in a day faster than I could edit five lousy articles, and I wouldn’t be helping the process any if I insisted on editing just to cut costs.

And you know what? That turned out to be one of the happier decisions I’ve ever made. With me writing, I cut down the backlog of work by five to eight per day (don’t quote me on that), and cut down on expenditure by taking on the job myself. I still couldn’t survive with just me writing, but at least I could look my writers in the eye and tell them that I could feel their pain.

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