I have been temping and writing (thank you to those who have edited my most recent stuff – I appreciate your kindness) and freelance editing. This last bit I have been doing a little less frequently than in Seattle which surprised me at first, but now maybe I have figured it out. Perhaps there are enough artists here that most people can have stuff edited for free by friends and such. I am one of those people after all. I should really be spreading out my business cards more and frequenting hip coffee shops where writers go to frustrate themselves over prose. But I digress.
I am bewildered by something I keep running up against in this editing world of mine. Now – just in case you are curious, or need something looked at, or have a friend who might need some help with the written word, let me explain how it works (at least for me). I get your piece of writing, whatever it is, it could be a book or an essay for school, or a non fiction piece you want to share with your friends. And then I look at it for grammar, word choice, clarity, structure, and I look to make sure you are saying exactly what you meant to say. I suggest where you can expand, explain, or delete sections, I ask you questions that might help you in the writing process. I basically workshop the hell out of your piece but in a more professional manner – without the comments like “haha. He’s a dick” I would write in the margins of my classmates stories.
Here is where my distress comes in: They always want me to like their work. And not just like it, they want me to “feel connected” to it. And they want that kind of feedback. They don’t understand that it doesn’t matter if I like it. And the thing is – it’s not like I do or I don’t. Some of the stuff I read needs a lot of work, yes. Some of the stuff I read isn’t going to be published anywhere and it’s not often that the writer even intends that. But it really doesn’t matter because this is a job. I edit. I love editing. I don’t assign a value to a stranger’s work. I don’t get invested. I try to make it as clean as I can and then I give it back. I try to explain that, sure, their work is fine but it doesn’t actually matter what I think, but they don’t want to hear it. They want more. They want me to feel what they are working on. Is this because I’m working with amatuers? It must be. No writer I know pesters their editing friends for positive feedback. That’s not why we get things looked at in the first place. I know where I rule. I want to know where things suck.
So I mix in positive with negative feedback, but I was doing that anyway. And I fake it. But it’s bothersome to get the pestering emails “What do you think? Do you like my work? Is it good?” It’s a school paper on a topic I don’t care about. Sure. It’s fine.