Editors, Writers, and Split Loyalties

I stare at the words on my computer screen. My next words will define my loyalties yet again in this delicate game.

“Yes, there are a lot of potential problems with the statement,” I type finally, “but that’s the author’s opinion. I think we need to leave it.”

I read over my comment twice, then smack enter. Loyalty to excellence and to my publication pitted against loyalty to my author—this time, I back my author.

This challenge arises every week, a regular part of my new adventure: editing the opinions page for The Echo.

title

The job seems simple enough. Opinions, the least restricting page in the paper, should have more submissions than I can handle. I should be sending rejection letters.

Instead, I’ve been scrambling. Since school started, any time I hear a strong opinion in conversation, I say, “Write me an article!” I pester people for pieces up ’til the last minute, accept articles hundreds of words over the limit, spend hours revising solid ideas badly written.

Why?

People are afraid.

Putting your position in writing—especially in a newspaper—makes it real, public, irrevocable. You may change your mind later, but that one article, archived somewhere, forever links you to that one opinion. People are afraid they’ll lack support, afraid they’ll offend, afraid they’ll fail. The more personal an opinion, the more frightened they are; the more you care, the greater the potential for pain.

Pen

What if nobody agrees? Worse—what if nobody cares?

As an editor, I can’t force anyone to write. People have a right to hold their opinions in silence. And yet, I think, important convictions should be shared—not necessarily in the interests of convincing a reader, but in the interests of posing a question, making space for a challenge to your thinking, opening the door to bigger ideas and deeper considerations.

Unsolicited submissions arrive with false bravado phrases:
“I hope you see the importance of this topic.”
“I believe this is extremely relevant right now.”

Newspaper-thin shields hiding their fears:
This might not look important, but it is to me; please print it.
This might not seem relevant, but it is to me; please print it.

Solicited submissions arrive with apologies.
“I hope this is what you’re looking for; it probably needs editing.”
“It’s pretty bad; you can change it if you need to.”

Newspaper-thin shields hiding their hopes:
This scared me, but I searched for the words and voiced my convictions; please print it.
This stretched me, but I struggled through the writer’s block and research; please print it. 

And I accept them, reassure them, print them.

And on production night, with copyeditors’ comments popping up, filled with late-night snark and made-up words, I balance my loyalties. Yes, this grammatical concern is valid. You’re right; this sentence is redundant.

No. You cannot change this idea. 

Because my loyalty is to excellent writing, to the paper I work for. But ultimately, my loyalty is also to human beings.

Writer

To writers with minds and souls, worries and hopes. My job is not just to critique and copyedit, but to help people share their opinions genuinely and fearlessly.

Advertisements

On Handling Criticism

I like to think I handle criticism fairly well. I don’t, but I like to think I do.

I got spoiled this summer, working for fantastic people who constantly praised my work. I was pretty pleased with myself.

Until this week.

A publishing house for which I did a part-time internship in the spring offered to keep sending me manuscripts this summer, so I’ve spent evenings and weekends making comments and changes, doing my best to be professional. (And by “my best,” I mean I tried to sound nice, but I have a hard time sounding professional, because professional always sounds so harsh. But I tried.)

I sent it in and asked for feedback—because it’s a learning experience, right?

He replied, very politely, that I made too many comments and should remember that this author is an award winning, published writer… and though he didn’t say it, the overall impression was, “You’re an intern with little experience; who are you to criticise your betters?”

I closed my laptop and made several cups of Earl Grey. Then I spent three days in a horrible funk, binge-watching TV, reading YA novels, and avoiding my email.

See—told you I don’t handle criticism well.

man-390341_1280

The whole time, this shadow loomed—the knowledge that at some point, I had to respond.

Finally, I wrote a long letter detailing the whole thing to a friend, and as I wrote, I realised a few things.

This man, a professional with years of experience, took the time to send feedback that I requested. He did so politely (I know it doesn’t sound like it, but remember, I told you my impression; his actual wording was courteous and ended on a “I’m sure with practise you’ll get very good at this” note). He gave me something to work with and learn from.

But most importantly, it’s his publishing house, not mine. He has the right to ask for whatever kind of edits he wants, and I have no right to criticise that. I’m doing a job for him, and I can’t force him to want the job done my way.

And the truth is, he’s right: I’m young. I have limited experience. I agreed to this internship claiming I want to learn—so I must be willing to take criticism, to make mistakes and learn how to fix them rather than pouting when they’re pointed out.

I want to make something clear here: I still don’t think my edits were wrong; the problems I pointed out are all valid concerns.

But the issue is not whether I’m right. No matter how right I may be, when I’m working for someone else, the highest priority is what they want. Besides—do I really care that much? Maybe I’m just being stubborn because I’m embarrassed and it’s easier to say, “You’re wrong” than, “I’m sorry; I’ll try to improve.”

Though criticism is never fun, it’s teaching me about flexibility and humility. Oh yeah—and about editing.

2349632625_7c2813f45b_o

Internships: What You Should (and Shouldn’t) Do

Summer hit me like a belly-flop from the high dive this year. I interviewed for my internship eight days before I flew home from school. I got the “Congratulations! You got the job!” call two days before I flew home. I found an apartment and ordered a plane ticket a week before I flew to New York, and I had one day to make sure I knew which train to get on before I started.

I was scared to death. I had no idea what to expect. I considered quitting before I started

The end of summer is hitting me a little less like a belly-flop and a little more like a cannonball—still insane impact and a lot of mess, but much less pain.

I’m glad I didn’t quit, because I had a fantastic summer. It flew by. Working an internship is the difference between practicing a stroke on dry land and trying it in water; you’re submerged in the experience, and I discovered that I love being submerged in publishing. I also like to think I learned a thing or two about what you should and should not do in an internship.

work

1. Do: Take your work seriously.
This sounds really “duh,” I know, but it’s tempting to think, “I’m just an intern. I’m temporary. It won’t matter.” But it will. An internship is one of the easiest ways to get a job out of college. Probably half the people I met or worked for this summer had been hired after interning. Even if you don’t plan to go back and work for the company, the work you do is only temporary for you. Any given task and its ramifications may only last till the end of summer for me, but for the supervisor I turn it in to, for the production department who have to work with it, for the book it winds up affecting in the end—even for the consumers who read that book—my work is long-term. It carries permanent weight.

2. Don’t: Take yourself seriously.
People will respect you for the work you do, but they’ll like you for how you make them feel. Be friendly. Chat with people, smile, laugh, listen. Try to see other people’s perspectives and don’t get too hung up on yourself. Remember that you’re an intern, not a full-time employee—meet your deadlines, but take advantage of the flexibility offered, make friends with people who can teach you things, accept that you will fail and that the easiest way to deal with that is with honesty, good humour, and humility. Apologise. Fix the problem. Laugh at yourself. You’ll go far.

3. Do: Show your enthusiasm.
In a world full of stressed people running on the hamster wheel of corporate life, nothing stands out more than someone who genuinely enjoys being there. I’m not saying to pretend to love something you hate, but even the worst job has its perks. I’m fortunate enough to have found an internship I absolutely loved (nearly) every minute of; you might not be—but still keep an eye out for the things you enjoy. Look for the aspects that you gravitate toward and let your supervisors know you enjoy them. Tell people which tasks you could do all day or what about your work is meaningful to you. Your supervisor isn’t there just to hand out work, and he or she will be gratified to hear that you love the idea of helping create a better product for the consumer or that you get excited about brainstorming creative ways to market. Plus your enthusiasm differentiates you from the hundreds of other interns who will be looking for a job soon.

4. Don’t: Say no.
Don’t say no to anything. Get invited to a meeting that seems unrelated to your job? Go anyway. Learn about whatever they’re discussing. I’ve been to sales meetings and question-and-answer sessions for an office move that I won’t be here for. I’ve listened to global executives discuss budgets and artists discuss cover designs. Vital to my particular job? Absolutely not—but they gave me a more complete picture of how the company works, what the different people do, how various departments interact. I’ve done spreadsheets, made phone calls, and scanned cheque request forms. Related in any way to writing or copyediting? Absolutely not—but being willing to do anything makes your supervisors like you and lets you see what other people’s jobs entail, again giving you a more holistic view of the company. The point of an internship is not to make money or to simply survive it—it’s to learn, so don’t ever say no to any opportunity to learn anything.

5. Do: Ask questions.
“Ask questions” is a common piece of advice that people don’t follow much. Don’t just ask questions when you need information in order to complete a task; ask questions about everything. Ask what part your small piece of work plays in the bigger picture. Find out who a job came from and where it’s going. Find out what that guy in the cubical down the hall does and how it relates to what you’re doing. Email people and ask for informational interviews—they’ll be happy to do them, and you’ll learn about jobs you never knew existed or insider secrets of how or where to apply if you want to get to a certain position, and you’ll meet someone who might become a valuable contact in getting to an interview. If nothing else, you might make a friend.

6. Don’t: Just float.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the options, the uncertainties, and your growing recognition of how little you really know about your chosen field. Feeling so at sea, it can be easy to just bob around, taking whatever opportunities you get but setting no definite goals. Don’t just float. Pick a goal and work toward it. Remember that goals can change; that’s okay—but pick a milestone or you’ll never get anywhere. Even if you’re taking whatever job you can get without being picky, set yourself goals. Decide what you want to learn or what job you want to transition into. Don’t let yourself float aimlessly when you could be getting somewhere.

Backshot

Beyond all that, enjoy yourself. An internship is a fantastic opportunity to try a career out and see how you feel about it. If you discover you hate your chosen path, search for the humour in it. If you discover you love it, savour every moment. The important thing to remember is that it’s a temporary adventure, so appreciate it before it ends.

Pizza: Free. Advice: Priceless.

Every Thursday, I stand outside a locked door and wait for someone to let me in. I think I hate it more than anything else I’ve had to do since coming to New York (and that’s saying a lot; this morning I took all the subway stairs in one embarrassing, painful step).

Why put myself through it? The quick answer is, “Free food!” Because, let’s face it, I’ll do a lot for free food. The more honest answer is complicated. It’s all tied up with scary words like “networking” and “career opportunities,” but I guess it comes down to this: people who made it to the top are telling their stories and answering questions, and I want to know what they’re saying.

2248069430_ddfe9505db_o (1)

So every Thursday, I wait outside that locked door for someone to let me in. I walk into a small conference room crowded with summer interns all hoping these few months will give them the boost they need to start climbing that ladder. I queue for free pizza, and I find a seat as near the door as possible, and then I listen to a professional talk about publishing, or editing, or whatever they do, and I try to hear something relevant.

A couple weeks ago, in one of those crowded intern luncheons, Will Schwalbe said something I love: “You can’t make money doing anything cynically.”

This came in answer my question about striking a balance between doing what you like and doing what pays. And his answer has stuck with me. I see it as presenting an ultimatum: either you do something, or you don’t. But if you decide to do it, do it the right way.

Don’t be mercenary. Don’t do things because you think they’ll pay off. There are so many reasons to do things—you should be able to come up with something more creative than money. Do it for the experience. Do it for the challenge. Do it because someone has to, and you’re willing to be that responsible person.

Or don’t do it.

Time

If you have to do it, find a way to value it. There’s a 300-name spreadsheet I’m filling in at work. I have the choice of how to do it, and if I’m doing it cynically, I’m missing out. Some things don’t slap you upside the face with how meaningful they are; you have to dig, imagine, get outside your box.

Experience, as I’ve mentioned, is a good motivator for me. The story I’ll tell about it later often makes up for what I’m doing at the moment. Or maybe it’s just the satisfaction of a job well done: 300 names in neatly formatted columns? Sign me up! Maybe it’s the perspective I gain along the way—I’m seeing a broad comparison of psych professors and schools across the country in a way I would never have known otherwise, and I’m getting insight into what the sales departments deal with.

So no, walking across the park to wait for someone to let me into a crowded room full of strangers is not my favourite thing. But I do it every week. Why? Because I think I’ll make valuable connections that will pay off in the future? I did the first day. But the more I think about it, the more I realise that this is not about the pay rate it might secure me later on. This is about learning about something I love, from someone who’s loved it longer, surrounded by other people who love it too.

scribbling

…but the free pizza doesn’t hurt.

6 Things I Tell Myself Daily

Last Monday morning, I walked into the Flatiron Building twenty minutes early (because my nerves woke me before my alarm), wearing four-inch heels (for confidence), trying desperately for a smile on my face despite my trembling insides. This Monday morning, I walked into 41 Madison on time, wearing flats, pausing to smile at the security man on my way to the lift.

I had no idea what to expect when I accepted this internship. Now, with one week’s experience in New York City, I feel qualified to share a few things I’ve taken to telling myself daily.

  1. Wear flats on the subway.
    FeetHeels are fantastic. I love my four-inch spikes. But rush hour means you’re liable to stand for forty minutes, and even if you don’t, you’re going to push your way through crowds in doorways, up stairways, and along walkways. You don’t want to do that in heels. Plus, if you make a spontaneous outing (or get lost and walk twenty a few extra blocks), you want comfy shoes. Give yourself a break. Keep a pair of flats in your bag.
  2. Smile.
    If you’re nervous, smile; it tricks your brain into releasing happy chemicals, and you’ll feel better. If you’re not nervous, smile; people like you better when you smile. It brightens everyone’s day a little. Don’t be the grouchy person who ruins the morning for someone else. Engage those muscles. Put a sparkle in your eye.
  3. Step out. Literally.
    step
    I knew maybe two people in the entirety of New York City when I got here. But now I know more than two, because I told myself, “Self, your coworkers are your community this summer. Don’t be a recluse.” So when the editors I work for invited me out for a spontaneous Broadway show, I stepped out and had a fantastic evening and made friends. We chatted. We laughed. They made sure I got on the right train home. When they invited me to a department happy hour and trivia night, I stepped out, even though crowds and party games aren’t my thing. I shook hands and learned names. I laughed and drank and offered wrong answers, and I made friends. Doing stuff that scares you is good. If nothing else, you’ll have a great story.
  4. Do the details right the first time.
    details
    No, I don’t love scouring websites for professors’ contact info to solicit textbook reviews. I don’t love checking every citation against the original source so we don’t get sued for reprinting a graph. But any job comes with perks and downsides, and if you want the fun stuff (yes, I’m geeking out about copyediting psych textbooks!), you have to do the not-so-fun stuff. Do it well. Realise the little details you work on in your cubicle in the headachy last few minutes of work are little details that matters in creating the big picture. Maybe nobody sees your little detail specifically, but they’ll see if you do it wrong. Take pride in your work, even if it’s scanning last year’s check requests for five solid hours (yes, I did that).
  5. If you don’t know, ask.
    Nobody expects you to remember every name the first day. Nobody expects you to know the secret of working the finicky scanner keyboard, opening those reports, or memorising the last year’s ISBNs. They’ll help you. They’ll tell you their tips and tricks, walk you through the process, tell you how to find the answers. Humility goes a lot further than fumbling attempts to do it alone. Just ask.
  6. Enjoy the scenery.
    SceneryI’m in the city that supposedly never sleeps. (Spoiler alert: people sleep in New York.) Here, amidst the express trains and honking taxis, I’m learning to slow down. No matter how impatient you are, you can’t make the subway go faster. Instead of worrying, smile at the kid trying to climb to the top of the pole. Marvel at the diversity of language around you. Read; you can’t be responsible, because cell phone service dies on the subway, so let yourself relax. Stop rushing to get there—to graduate, to find a job, to get promoted. Stop. Look around. See where you’re at and appreciate it. Stop thinking about the doors this will open, because where you go doesn’t matter if you don’t know where you are. I’m trying to stop watching the clock and appreciate that I get to sit in the office of a well-known publishing company and work on books that will influence students across the world. That I get to learn while I work. That I love my work. That I even have work. I have so much to be thankful for; why rush?

I remind myself of these things daily, moment by moment, because I still feel nervous when I step off the train and can’t remember which exit to take. I still eye the dragging minute hand on the clock and consider pitching textbooks out the window when I come across yet another table that might need copyright permissions. I tell myself these things because I have an opportunity that not many people have, and if I end this summer with only a fatter resume and four practicum credits on my college transcript, it’s nobody’s fault but my own.

So tomorrow morning, no matter how my nerves feel, no matter what’s waiting, I will walk into 41 Madison on time, wearing flats and a smile.

New York

How to Make Writers Hate You (in 3 easy steps)

During high school, I realised I should not be a teacher.

For one thing, my mind jumps from step one to step three in most subjects, making any sort of linear teaching a struggle.
For another, I lack patience–I like finding a few different ways to explain a thing, but once I’ve used those few different ways, if you still don’t get it, I prefer to give up rather than find one more way.

Also, I dislike mornings, rules, and rooms full of people–especially air-conditioned rooms full of people.

Despite these considerations, I am a consultant in my university’s writing centre–a position requiring me to work with students of varying skill level on pieces ranging from personal creative works to 40-page research papers on topics I didn’t know existed.

I’m also in several classes this semester that involve editing and critiquing. After getting back a few pieces scarred over with the kind of editing that we try to avoid in the writing centre, I feel more or less adequately experienced to expound on some things that will make writers despise you as an editor.

1.  Make arbitrary changes.
MonkeyTyping
     Imagine ordering a burger, extra pickles, no cheese. You probably ordered that for a reason. Maybe you love pickles and have a dairy allergy. Maybe you just don’t like cheese. Now imagine the server brings you something you didn’t order. Best case scenario, the burger has the normal amount of pickles and a big slice of cheese. Worst case scenario, the thing on your plate isn’t even a burger–you take a big bite, expecting a juicy burger, extra pickles, no cheese–and you taste a fish sandwich complete with relish and tartar sauce. And the server points out that there’s even extra relish–which is sort of like extra pickles–and there’s no cheese, which is, after all, what you asked for.
     “But this isn’t what I ordered!” you say.
     “No, but it’s better,” the server explains.
     Then the server bills you for improving your order.
     Making arbitrary changes to someone else’s writing is like bringing someone the wrong sandwich at a restaurant. No matter how much better you think the thing is, it’s not what the author asked for.
     This doesn’t mean don’t make changes. It means suggest changes. If the change you’re suggesting isn’t mechanical–“you forgot a comma here” or “this is grammatically incorrect”–instead of just scratching out the author’s words and inking in your version of better phrasing or, heaven forbid, a completely different (but better!) plot, make a suggestion. Say, “I’m confused here. Could you clarify? Perhaps you could…” If you feel really strongly about your change, write it in–but make sure you still write it in as a suggestion, and give your reasoning, because if the author is anything like me, he or she is unlikely to just take your suggestion–but explaining your reasoning ensures that the author can come up with a fix for the problem you see.

2.  Expect the author to make every change you suggest.

chameleon

     Imagine ordering another burger. You know every burger place is different, so before finalising your order, you ask the server’s advice. You fancy your burgers with extra pickles and no cheese–does the server think this particular burger would taste better that way, or should you consider trying it with cheese? Which sauce does the server suggest to best complement the signature burger flavour at this establishment? Does the server think the burgers here are any good, or should you scrap the burger idea entirely and try a fish sandwich instead?
The server makes a lot of suggestions, explains that the cheese here is a particularly delicious variety chosen specifically for these burgers, and the standard serving of pickles on burgers here is much larger than the standard serving in other burger joints. However, the truth is that the fish sandwiches in this restaurant are much better than the burgers.
At this point, you decide the server is a truly useful individual, and you consider your options carefully. Although you acknowledge that the server’s experience leads to astute observations on the quality of the food, you do not care for fish and would still like a burger–however, thanks to the server’s suggestions, you agree to try the burger without extra pickles and with the cheese. As long as the server brings you the burger (with normal pickles and cheese) you will be grateful for the server’s advice. However, if the server then calls you a nincompoop for not ordering the recommended fish sandwich, you may become irate. If the server follows that insult by referring to your mother as a hamster and your father as having smelt of elderberries, you will probably file a complaint and refuse to visit this restaurant in the future.

     As an editor, you are free to make as many suggestions and recommendations as you would like, and you have the option of making them lightly and vaguely or strongly and specifically. As long as you are useful and polite, the author will probably be quite grateful for your assistance. However, if you try to force the author to take your suggestions, or if you follow up your recommendations by insinuating that the author is a writer on the level of your parakeet if he or she does not adhere to your advice, the author will be extremely annoyed and offended and may retaliate by suggesting that you are an editor on the level of a baboon and refusing to use your services ever again.
     The author may do this in a public way, causing other writers to avoid your services.
     Unless you’re the one publishing the piece, you don’t have a right to expect your advice to be followed explicitly.

3.  Insult the piece.

penguinslap

     Imagine you truly love burgers, especially with extra pickles and no cheese. Upon entering yet another restaurant, you order your beloved favourite: a burger with extra pickles and no cheese. The server proceeds to recommend a burger without extra pickles and with cheese, goes so far as to suggest that you switch your order entirely to a fish sandwich, and then leaves off menu suggestions entirely and expresses the opinion that your burger choice displays insipid ignorance and the poorest of perceptive skills. In fact, this audacious server even suggests that with such an egregious lack of taste in food choice, you ought not to be eating at all.
You are mildly surprised at the number of servers who favour fish sandwiches over burgers, but this feeling is secondary to one of offence and outrage. Your taste in burgers is the result of years of dedicated burger tasting, and you never make your food choices lightly. Both wounded and furious, you tear the menu in half and storm out of the restaurant.

     When editing, you can say almost anything you want about a piece, as long as you say it in the form of a helpful suggestion. No matter how tempted you are to scribble, “STOP BORING ME TO DEATH I NEED MY BRAIN CELLS FUNCTIONAL!” across entire paragraphs of drivel, you have a responsibility to write criticism only in the context of constructive suggestions. Instead of offensive phrases, try, “This section is a little slow. Some specific action might help.” or “This part is a bit heavy. Could we get some dialogue to break it up?” Not only is this less likely to bring down upon you the wrath of a writer scorned, like whose fury hell hath no–but it also involves actually doing your job, which is to help make a piece better, not simply to haemorrhage red ink over its 12-point Times New Roman bones.
     No matter how bad a piece is, you have to remember that you’re communicating with another human being with feelings and a strong attachment to this piece–an attachment rather analogous to that of a mother grizzly bear to her cubs. Be honest. Be tactful. Be useful.

Here’s the thing: if you’re the one ordering the burger, you order your burger for you. If you want extra pickles–great. If you want to smother the thing in horseradish–great. Nobody else has to like it if you like it. Don’t be surprised if all your dinner guests refuse to eat your special wasabi and anchovy burger, but don’t let that stop you eating it yourself.

If you’re the one serving the burger, unless you have to serve it to more than just the person who ordered it, you have to serve what they ordered. Make suggestions all you want, but in the end, the customer is always right. Even when the customer wants extra pickles or whatever else.

There’s a weird balance to editing. You have to realise that you’ve been entrusted with something precious–something created out of another human being’s experiences, interpretations, hopes, and writer’s cramp. You have an opportunity to comment on it, help smooth the rough edges away, offer insights, share your own experience. That’s a pretty awesome opportunity, actually. It’s not quite like being a writer or a reader. You’re not just communicating; you’re helping someone else communicate.

If you think about it, you’re being offered a little piece of a writer’s soul. So recognise its individuality, respect its uniqueness, and, as your mother always told you, return it in better condition than you received it.

7 Things I Learned From Editing Over Christmas

So you may have noticed my prolonged and unusual absence for the past few weeks. I like to think that you did–that you sat eagerly at your computer every Tuesday night hopefully watching for “Everyday Terrors” to show up in your email or news feed or reader, eventually giving up late into the evening and drowning your sorrows in large mugs of tea, coffee, and other things.
Allow me to explain and apologise: I spent every spare moment for the past few weeks working on a freelance editing job. I got the assignment in October, expected it to be a relatively quick job, balanced it with homework, work, and Netflix for a few months, hit Christmas, and panicked. Turns out the thing took much longer than I had anticipated. Never fear–I finished it the day before my deadline and had time for a few proofreading passes before I turned it in. Since you, my readers, fall into the category of things sacrificed for the job (along with other vital things like my own writing, movies with my family, and naps), I believe I owe it to you to at least detail some lessons I learned from the experience.

1: Starting with a plan is important.
Yeah, I prefer to just wing things. But probably if I’d set little deadlines for myself and come up with a system for marking the piece up back before Christmas Eve, I would’ve had more free time over my holiday. By the time Christmas was over, I had a pretty simple system set up, and the rewrite was easier because of that, but I could’ve saved a lot of time by planning my attack beforehand.

Adventure

2: Balance matters.
The piece needed a lot of editing. The whole point of my first pass was to go into each page and specifically mark what needed to be fixed and how I should fix it. After several hours of staring at my screen, I several times caught myself highlighting entire pages at a time and writing, “Fix it” in the margin. That is not helpful. Frequent breaks kept me from losing perspective and making a mess that I had to clean up later.

KittehTopple

3:  Family shouldn’t pay for my bad judgment.
Christmas holiday is supposed to involve a lot of sleeping and relaxing, right, so that you get back to school all…refreshed or whatever. Mine did not. Mine involved sitting up in bed past three and four in the morning, fingers trembling with exhaustion as I rewrote yet another sentence or fixed just one more typo. Why? Because I go home at Christmas for my family, and they deserve to have me present; it’s not their fault I didn’t get my project done before finals week. So I played card games, made lattes, went hiking, and cosplayed for The Hobbit with my brother, and then, in spare moments during the days and late into the nights, I edited.

SLEEP.

4: Noticing patterns helps.
There’s some carryover to a deep life lesson, I think. It took me all of a few chapters to figure out that the author of this particular piece had a few pet phrases and favourite mistakes. Once I realised that these phrases and errors would show up consistently throughout the piece, I could quit wasting my time on each individual error and simply make a note of the overall issue. Then I came back later, once I finished rewriting, and addressed those ubiquitous errors in one pass. Thank heavens for cmd+F! I think there’s a life application in there somewhere. Something about not getting hung up on the same petty issues over and over, or recognising patterns to address as a whole, or something. Take it and run with it.

TraitsCoincide

5: There are no throwaway days.
I have these days where I feel like nothing I do should matter, like for some reason today should be a bonus day, with no ramifications tomorrow. But there aren’t any of those. If I took a throwaway day on this project, I had to work twice as hard some other day, whether that meant kicking out a hundred pages in a night instead of fifty or whether it carried all the way to my final pass. I write pretty unprofessional editing notes when I know nobody else will see them, but some of them just got ridiculous. When I went back for the rewrite, I noticed all my throwaway days–entire pages highlighted with eloquent notes like, “Blargh” or “Wait really?” You can’t just chuck a day out the window. Days are like boomerangs. They come back for you eventually.

TheRightThing

6: Done is never done. But that’s okay.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m remembering that I forgot to go back and cmd+F all the double spaces, and I’m kicking myself for it. (Hypothetically. I’m actually curled up in a fluffy blanket drinking tea…) Every time I thought I was done that project, I’d remember something else I needed to touch up or some other word I needed to find to make certain it was spelled consistently throughout the piece. It’s kind of like real life. There will always be one more thing you feel like you should do, one more place to go, one more thing to see. You will never, ever finish. And that’s okay.

StairsAreHARD

7: My way isn’t (always) the best way.
Okay, sometimes I’m pretty phenomenal; I won’t back down on that. I mean, drinking tea by the potful is definitely always the best way. But when it comes to writing, everyone’s different. And that’s okay. On my rewrite through this piece, I found a lot of notes in the first chapters that I discarded. Most were suggesting rewrites of various sections, because when I went through the first few chapters, I didn’t know this author’s voice yet, and I have a tendency to rewrite everyone’s writing to match my own style. One of the challenges of this piece was that it’s a genre I don’t usually work in. It took a long time to figure out that some of what I initially viewed as horrendous writing that needed major changes was really just someone else’s unique approach to her own genre. I had to learn to respect that.

StopThat

Maybe some of those things blew your mind and changed your perspective. Maybe you didn’t even read the words, just laughed at the gifs. I don’t judge. Laughing at gifs improves your psychological health or something; I’m pretty sure I read that on the internet. In the end, the important thing is, I finished the job–I finished it by the time I said I would, and I did a good enough job that I’m not ashamed to have my name connected with it. And I’m back to you.

ISurvived

30 Thoughts During Internship Applications

So this week I’ve been working on internship applications, partly because an internship in the professional publishing world is required for my major and partly because it sounds exciting and educational. And I discovered something: internship applications are difficult. You have to find a company, find out if they even have internships, find the application (not as easy as it sounds–try finding Scholastic’s; the webpage swears they have one–and if you find it, send me a link), fill out the application, make sure your resume and cover letter work–oh right, first you have to make a cover letter and resume….. Anyway, all that to say, you don’t get any immediate gratification unless you promise yourself coffee after you finish the applications. And even then, you have to keep telling yourself over and over, “I will not die if I don’t get an internship.” It’s not exactly reassuring.

  1. I don’t know anywhere to apply. Literally I don’t know a single publisher’s name.
    dangit
  2. Too many options. I can never finish this many applications.
  3. And what if I apply for all of them and only the ones I don’t want to work for even answer my application?
  4. Ooh–New York City. This could be cool.
  5. Experience. Atmosphere. Rainy pavements under streetlights…Gatsby
  6. …also expensive rent. And loneliness. And stalkers in alleys.
  7. Wait, does that really happen? Maybe I watch too much TV.
  8. A resume–do I even have a resume? 
  9. Maybe one of these doesn’t require a resume…
  10. …crap. They all require resumes.panda
  11. I think I have one. From two years ago. When I needed a summer job.
  12. Nothing on my resume is relevant. Or current. Or interesting.
  13. But there’s a lot. How do I fit it on one page?
  14. Oh man–how am I gonna fit it on one page in a decade?
    LetMeExplain
  15. Is it too late to change my major? Maybe I should go into…science. Medicine. Yeah. Doctors make good money, right?
  16. Ooooh this publishing house pays its interns!
    ParkerMoney
  17. …and probably half the Western world is applying for it, huh?
  18. LONDON. I’ll apply to go to London.
  19. I wonder if you need a Visa to intern in London?
  20. ….snap. I need a Visa. How much does a Visa cost? Where do you even get a Visa?
  21. Is it lunch time yet?
  22. What on earth is a cover letter supposed to say?
  23. And what’s it supposed to cover anyway? These are all online applications.
  24. I’ve never heard of this publisher. I wonder if they’re legit.wart
  25. Might as well apply anyway. In case all the big ones reject me.
  26. But what if it’s a fake company? What if it’s a front for modern-day slave traders?
  27. I saw that on TV. Or read it on a blog. Or something. It’s a thing.
  28. Better apply anyway.
    BothisGood
  29. But this is kinda exciting. Y’know. Publishing. Real professionals. Internships.
  30. If they all reject me, I think my mother still loves me. Probably.
    HappyBoo