Recently, I took a new job. I had no choice. No offense, people, but as much as you seem to demand my advice, y’all don’t seem all that interested in paying for my wisdom! 😊
So, I did what writers and artists throughout history have had to do to support their creative work and, you know, stay alive:
I got a “real” job.
I’m in pretty good company. I mean, hey: Franz Kafka was an insurance clerk, and Anthony Trollope worked as a post office surveyor. At least my new editing job is vaguely related to literature, so I can feel like I’m still in the swing of things. Not every writer has that luxury.
The fact is, almost no writer these days can make a living at it. The world has changed, and people just don’t seem to think literature is worth much anymore. It’s sad, really—and not just because I, personally, want to make money doing what I love.
It’s also sad because it shows that our culture is dying.
I listened to a lecture series a few months ago in which the professor said that you know a society has become a thriving culture when some people are able to make a living as poets. Clearly, for modern America, those days are over, and those of us who are fighting to make literature important again have to “sell out” and do something else to keep ourselves afloat.
But I won’t complain. Much. A little bit of writing is better than none at all. And besides, in what other field can you successfully do your life’s work in just a few minutes (and one sentence) a day?
Hang in there, my fellow sell-outs. Maybe one day our world will bounce back from this decline and start treating us like the rare and noble jewels we writers are.
I’ve noticed something disturbing lately: Nobody seems to think editing is worth paying for.
I get it—we all want to save our money for the exciting things, like good food and travel. But at the same time that we’re downgrading editing (most of the freelance jobs I see online barely pay above minimum wage and demand many years of experience), more people than ever are declaring themselves writers.
What the hell is going on?
How can so many people claim to love literature and say they want to help produce it, but not see the essential role that editors play?
Somehow, we’ve created a society where deciding you ARE something—a soccer player, a cook, a writer—means you expect everyone else to accept you as such.
Maybe it traces back to that trend of giving out trophies for “participation” instead of winning. We’ve bred whole generations of people who don’t understand that you’re supposed to work hard and learn and practice a skill (like writing) before you can be successful.
These days, everyone just seems to be taking the shortcut: They dash off whatever text happens to run through their brain (that’s the “participation”) and then they upload it to Amazon and consider themselves published (that’s the “trophy”).
They skip the entire middle part that’s supposed to come between choosing to be a writer and actually becoming one: They forget to do the WORK—you know, learning to write, revising their drafts, and having someone who actually knows about literature (that is, an editor) polish their rough draft into a gem.
Even the people who care about writing don’t seem to be willing to work at it anymore. Almost every writing-related meme or post I see on social media has at least one spelling/punctuation/grammatical error.
We’re living in a world where emojis and text-message abbreviations pass for “language” and where the masters of REAL language are treated as irrelevant.
And in case you haven’t noticed, our world is a mess.
In my opinion, the two trends—devaluing editors and destroying the world—are related. And I think it’s time to fix things, so here is my plea:
Treat editors with the respect we deserve.
Pay us more than the part-time teenage fry cook at McDonald’s.
We are trained, skilled professionals, and our job is more important than any other out there today.
(I’d argue that “heart surgeon” might be slightly more important, but frankly, if we all got off our asses, put down the fast food, and tore ourselves away from Netflix once in a while to exercise, most of a surgeon’s job would quickly become obsolete.)
Yes, the editor’s job is important: We editors are preserving a language that is rapidly devolving into little more than hieroglyphic, emoji-based shorthand. Without us, in maybe 20 years, it’s likely we’ll only be able to communicate through screens and thumbs and perhaps the occasional angry grunt when the battery dies on our devices.
Editors are the only ones who can keep language—and the world—going. The editors’ red pens are the only thing standing between us and anarchy.
Save the editors, save the world.
I love working with writers, always have. But sometimes? You guys can be real a**holes.
Case in point:
We recently received a submission at Blydyn Square Books that pretty much contained all the mistakes I’ve been complaining authors make—while also demonstrating what a jerk this particular person was.
First off, the submission came from an agent, when our website explicitly says that we prefer to work directly with authors without having any middlemen (or -women) involved.
Second, it had an elaborate query letter and synopsis, which (again) are things we don’t consider important (something that is, again, clearly noted on our website).
Then, the manuscript itself was riddled with spelling and punctuation errors, right from the earliest pages—which showed us that the agent who sent it was flat out lying when she said the book had been fully edited.
But worst of all was another deceit, a much bigger one, something that told us we’d never want to work with this writer.
So, what was it?
It’s hilarious, actually.
The moment we replied to the agent’s email to acknowledge receipt of the submission, she emailed the author, her “client.”
Or so she thought.
In reality, thanks to some sloppy email skills, the so-called agent actually wrote back to US, not the author, and said, “They took the bait. They really think I’m your agent and they’re gonna read your submission. I told you I could fake it even if I don’t know anything about the book business.”
Ladies and gentlemen, I implore you: If your friend isn’t talented enough to check the “To” line when sending an email, he or she is NOT the correct choice for your “pretend agent.” In fact, NOBODY is a good choice for such a dishonest (and idiotic) maneuver.
Need I say it?
This writer will NOT be getting a contract from Blydyn Square Books. For some crazy reason, we prefer to work with people who DON’T go out of their way to lie to us.