I think it’s always been that people believe they’ll write a novel and get rich. My friend Jamie wrote at least one blog post about this, and we freelancers often bemoan our shared plight of wannabe writers chasing that gravy train.
My world seems to be shrinking around the edges with the slew of people who have produced a manuscript after a long, lucrative career as something else, or during a lucrative career, or who believe that all people who’ve written and published a work of fiction are as stinking rich as Stephen King (which is not true. There’s him and JK Rowling. The rest of us are teaching or waiting tables or both to pay the bills).
I recently had a facebook convo with a grumpy mid-list author (who wishes to remain anonymous) and, certainly out of jealousy of the economic freedom to while away the hours, obliviously typing convoluted absurdity after stilted dialogue after overly obscure or pop allusion and then to pay someone to read it, we groused about having to schlep through tomes (that sometimes read like 70s performance art) in order to fund our writing.
When I say what I do, I never say, “I’m an editor.” I just don’t. I say, “I’m a writer.” Sometimes, if people ask if I make enough money at that, I say, “well, I also freelance as an editor.” Because, love or hate it, editing pays.
But my soul lathers whenever I read a beautiful book. I can barely make my typing fingers rest until I can get to a keyboard or a notebook. The words are in me. They thrum to get out.
And editing sucks out all my creative energy.
And it’s frustrating.
And I’ve been working so hard at writing for so long.
And I feel like an imposter already. I can’t handle clients with less than half my experience being graceless with my feedback just because they have money and I do not. I don’t have any more space inside for shit.
I dislike the power balance when the uninitiated, naive writer (regardless of his or her life stage) is signing the check and I am assessing the work.
The expectation is that I am being paid, not only to read the work, comment on its effectiveness, find its typos, fix its grammar, style, and usage, all without letting the writer’s voice get gobbled up by mine, but to respond thoughtfully to long, defensive emails or to listen to a client yak on the phone for an hour or two; and frankly, even after drawing clear phone boundaries, I just don’t have time.
What my clients paid me for was my expertise, my experience, my felicity with grammar and style.
What they got was a little piece of my soul.
I know that sounds insane and melodramatic, but I’m in graduate school for writing. Editing is one of the many things one can do with a graduate degree in creative writing, but I need to hone my focus. I need to be the guy with the manuscript for a while. I am the guy with the manuscript.
And I am smart and I have every right to have a manuscript.
This is my story. I’m tired of helping with yours.
I guess a gal can only muster so much cheer and helpfulness.
And maybe I’ll get back to it someday. Hell, even though I said I wouldn’t, I’m proofing a romance novel now. Just one toe in the door.
I’ll see ya’ll at AWP, or after. My next post will be all about that.