Swept Away

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As a former newspaper editor who has nitpicked other people’s work for the better part of his 30 years, it can sometimes be hard to avoid sounding like a complete snob when trying to guide writers to the promised land.

As a former newspaper editor who has nitpicked other people’s work for the better part of his 30 years, it can sometimes be hard to avoid sounding like a complete snob when trying to guide writers to the promised land.

I have been interning with a very respectable online travel writing site since mid-July. One of my main functions has been editing since I am so slow to write anything, though I like to think what I do write is very good, as I have put a lot of effort into making sure stupid mistakes have been dealt with in the drafting process. Now, I was a professional editor for over two years, have written professionally for over five years, and have written in general for about 15 years, so I know I bring time to the page, and with that time comes refinement. But, I find it very hard to keep my snarky comments in check when someone submits a travel piece for editing and dares write “thru” when they mean “through.” Thru? Like Drive Thru window? Really? I will avoid going into the multiple usages of “it’s” when the writer meant “its,” but since I just mentioned it, I guess I just lied to you when I said I wouldn’t go into it.

I have been told to be forgiving when it comes to how some people write in some mediums — text messages for example — but a submitted, supposedly proofread piece for a writing website? I try very hard to keep the snark in check, which is why I felt compelled to bust it out here.

This writer also seems to be in love with her words, and has deemed it negligent of her should she not display as many of these words to us, the readers, as possible. I was swept away by the sounds my own writing made on more than a few hundred occasions. The first sentence in this paragraph, for example.

I remember in high school when a piece of mine was being read by folks at The Subterranean, our literary magazine. I sat in the semi-circle along with them, reading silently with them my story about a man who has lost all hope in humanity and decides to let the ocean take him away (or something like that. It has been 12 years) and wondering just what these fine, discerning students would say about the piece. It was obviously good. Great, even. What a sensitive, thought-provoking piece. It absolutely will have to go front-and-center in the next issue.

“This sucks,” was the general consensus. The more critical of the readers wondered if the writer of this story had any idea what he or she was writing about, or if the writer simply loved the sound of their own words and could not help but keep writing them. They did not know I wrote the story, but the crimson my cheeks had immediately become probably gave me away. “Have you been to the beach lately, John, because you look sunburned,” I imagined them saying. I was wrong about that, as well.

As we write more, read more, have more of our work criticized, fairly and not, the scars and bruises and lessons hopefully start to make a difference. Eventually, eventually, we become good writers.

Maybe not all of us. I’m such a bitch.



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