November 14th, 2011 | Magazine

What Being Edited Feels Like

This is what all editing looks like.
This is what all editing looks like. Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

One of my favorite things about the writing process is that, in the end, it’s all about solving problems. As someone who achieved moderate success with high school level math, I’m not surprised that I’m halfway decent at solving the problem of changing other people’s long, oddly worded sentences into coherent nuggets of meaning. Being the editor is always great; you get to be the smartest and the best and tell everyone why what they painstakingly, meticulously, SLAVISHLY threw together five minutes before the deadline is philosophically misguided and full of careless grammatical mistakes. However, this also means you understand the cruel, soulless superiority complex that overcomes even the blondest, sweetest looking of editors when faced with an egregious dangling modifier or quotation that concludes with any verb besides “said.” You know, if someone were editing this right now, I imagine he would say, “That sentence is too long!” and I would know that he was thinking to himself, “I am so much smarter and better and more destined for success and fame than Lauren because she writes horrible sentences like that one. I am the champion of words.”

I hate this very much. When I’m being edited, I usually respond by frowning in an intellectual-looking way and nodding in agreement to make it seem like I, too, had thought of that very obvious and plebeian suggestion and was just taking a risk with that comma splice to “play around.” I imagine this makes me seem edgy and confident and unafraid of rejection. In reality, I want to bite someone and then cry because this edit has made me realize I’m the worst writer in the history of all time.

Rational Me knows editing is important and crucial and stuff, though. I mean, it’s one of the quintessential facts of life: your metabolism will slow down, your brand new iPhone 4S will soon become obsolete, and you will have problems with your third paragraph.

Still, Irrational Me is usually in charge. I often ask my boyfriend to read my stuff before sending it elsewhere because I trust him. By “trust him,” I mean I can expect him to praise me endlessly and swear that nothing could be more perfect than the 1000-word essay I’ve written on Tabasco sauce, except for maybe my hair/eyes/skin/body/self. At the same time, I would also much rather hear constructive criticism from someone who can kiss it and make it better than from a scary writing professor, and Rational Me knows there’s always a way for a piece to improve. This creates an interesting paradox.

“OH MY GOD, YOU CANNOT SERIOUSLY THINK THERE’S NOTHING WRONG,” I screech as tears of frustration stream down my perfect face. “OH MY GOD, YOU’RE TRYING TO SABOTAGE ME!!!! I BET YOU DON’T EVEN LIKE MY HAIRCUT LIKE YOU SAID YOU DID, EITHER!!!!”

It’s really a miracle that we’re still together.