On being an Editor
It must be a form of cosmic retribution—or what the ill-informed call “karma”—or what the sage denizens of my neighborhood mean when they say (in that accent I know and love so well), “what goes around, comes around”—that I am now an Editor. If there is an Anthropomorphic Deity with a Hand on the Helm, I know that Entity is laughing His/Her/Its ambrosial buttock(s) off. Fate is not just malevolent, it’s mischievous. The Universe has a sense of humor, and it’s killing me.
I’ve been in some sort of print since the age of 14. As such, I thought I was brilliant even when I was not. I thought my jokes were riotous and my sentences were pearls of literary eloquence. So when my work was altered in any way by a mere editor, I threw a fit. Actually, let’s just call it by its real name: a tantrum.
In the late 1970s, my father published a local TV listings weekly and found room to include some of my youthful scrawls. I should have been grateful—and I generally was, except one time when he was struggling to meet a printer’s deadline and I had seen how he re-wrote something I gave him. It was no longer my “wonderful” writing. I shudder now to think that I crumpled up the copy and threw it on the floor. If I could go back in time right now, I’d slap myself in the face. I’d also say, “At 15, your jokes are nowhere damn near as funny as you think they are.”
I worked hard at not being lousy, and I made some progress, but my temper did not improve. If an editor (inadvertently or intentionally) changed the meaning of something I’d written, I’d howl. Usually this occurred with letters to the local paper. Changing “emerge” to “merge” would throw me into paroxysms of rage. Once I broke a telephone when talking to an editor, and I was sober. Being right only made me worse.
And now, I can hear that spectral laughter. I am the Editor. In my agony (and newfound empathy for those I verbally abused), I have to smile. And what I must impart right now is that every writer on my paper gets edited. I promise you (if you are a writer) that I am not trying to sabotage your work. I won’t change the meaning of what you’ve written. I won’t alter your “voice.” Just know that I am doing my best to make us all look good.
If, in the Beginning was the Word, somewhere along the line was the Editor—whom we never hear about. The reason for that I will leave the reader to contemplate.