There is No Off Switch for Editors
Anyways, some of the best writers around are the best editors. Maybe it’s because most editors have put their time in and climbed up the ranks. They’ve learned lots of tricks themselves as their hard fought passages were mangled and rearranged over the years. At this point in my life, I’ve probably edited as much as I’ve written. As much fun as writing is, editing has its own rewards. I get to play teacher and help other writers better express themselves. I get to slash through a jungle of jargon and reveal a cleaner, more condensed copy.
The only problem with being an editor is that, well… I can’t turn it off.
It’s impossible for me to read a restaurant menu without noticing a typo. I can’t even read product packaging without cringing. And when I read the morning newspaper and notice a major typo? On the front page? On a headline no less? Yeah, I think I almost spilled coffee in my lap when I saw that the other day. Seriously.
You probably think I’m joking, and to some degree I am. At least, I’m making light of it, but it truly is something I no longer have control over. My eyes and brain have been programmed to scan copy for errors as I read and digest the information. My right arm instinctively reaches for a non-existent red pen. Yeah, that’s a little weird. Especially when I’m on my computer, right?
Want further proof? A few weeks ago my wife was decorating my 9-year-old’s birthday cake. [Sidenote: My wife makes UNBELIEVABLE cakes. You better believe I’m intimidated when her birthday rolls around and I have to make one for her.] She frosted the entire cake, put an edible image in the center and added two rows of shell borders. As she began to put those little sugar letters on the cake to spell, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JASON,” without batting an eye, I quickly told her it’s upsidedown.
“What do you mean?” she asked as the H and A were lightly placed on the cake.
“The cake. It’s upsidedown, ” I told her. And sure enough it was. She gently took the two letters off, turned the cake around and decorated it correctly. If I hadn’t caught it, you better believe there would’ve been some serious words flying around. And these ones wouldn’t have been made of sugar.
Is it bad that I helped my wife save our son’s birthday cake? Of course not. But it happened so incredibly naturally to me, I didn’t even skip a beat. It made me realize that for good or bad, I can never simply enjoy reading for reading. There will always be a small part of me scanning an article, reading the captions, the photo credits even, looking for any sort of error. If ignorance is bliss, then call me the King of Depression.
Sure I can wallow in my perpetual proofreading pit. I can choose the half empty glass. Or I can look at this skill as a superpower. Fine, I may not be able to bend steel in my bare hands or run faster than the speed of light, but dammit, I can tell the difference between it’s and its!
Writing comes easy to me. Like most guys, I’m not a fan of that talking thing. But writing? Oh, if you catch me in an IM session, you can’t get me to shut up. Writing doesn’t come easy to everyone, though. And it’s most definitely something everyone needs to do on a daily basis. So that’s where my editing skills are a blessing, not a curse.
I can leap in to save the day at a moment’s notice! Doesn’t matter if it’s to help edit a friend’s cover letter for a job, a relative’s pitch letter for a project, or yes, even something as simple as a thank you card. My editing skills can save lives! Or, at least, typos and poor grammar.
I may not be able to turn off my editing switch, but I don’t need to turn it on either. There’s comfort in that.
Do you suffer from Perpetual Editing Syndrome? Share your pain in the comments below!