Friday, February 15, 2013

When did you know?

This week of Valentine's day, everyone's talking about love and meaning. I've seen a few posts here and there about that moment when you just know. So I had to ask myself, when did I know? But beyond my relationship--having celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary in 2012, I've recently revisited that meme, I wondered, when did I know that I wanted to be an editor?

I've always wanted to be a writer, for as long as I can remember, which is all the way back to grade school, when I wrote a poem about crunching fall leaves. From then on, I would write. I was a very creative kid, I expressed myself through images and words and kept on writing poetry, really angsty poetry. When I was about 11, my brother in law brought me a copy of a page photocopied from the dictionary, the definition of "deep" to explain what he thought when he read what I wrote. It was really angsty.

As I progressed into my teens, the angst broadened as angst will do. I continued with poetry, stories and more. But I never really hit on that thing that I wanted to write. As I entered the job market, I sought out opportunities to write technical documents; while attending college, I took a job teaching software applications and writing manuals. I was in my late 20s and still really didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but then I met an English Lit professor who reignited a love for non-technical writing. I loved taking the exams in her class--LOVED taking her exams, I said. She would assign classic novels that didn't really seem to have any connection, but in our exams she would force us to find those connections. It was an amazing, mind-expanding experience.

But that's not the moment.

I graduated. Got pregnant. Moved. I was going to be a stay-at-home mom, that was the plan. But just a few months into this new project, I realized that perhaps I wasn't fully cut out for that reality. I craved the workplace, and as luck would have it, I happened to cross paths with a local magazine editor while attending a mom's event. I was the newsletter editor for my mom's group (surprised? I told you I couldn't step away!) and I was going to include some information from this woman in my newsletter. Casually (on the surface at least; in reality, I had practiced this conversation in my head a hundred times), I offered my services as a writer, should she need one. She told me to submit some writing samples and that was that.

Well, I just happened to have some samples, essays that I had written a few years earlier. I polished them a bit, took a deep breath, and sent them over. The next day she emailed me back, we met and I had my first assignment. It was the right place, the right person, the right time.

Within a few years, I moved from a casual freelance writer under her tutelage to the assistant editor. But writing was still my main focus. Until one day, we were working on editing and there was a sentence that was giving us fits; this was one of those sentences that had been rewritten about a hundred times, and nothing made it sound right. Finally, she looked at it for a minute, nodded her head and said "try this." She had found the key. Taken that awkward, overlong sentence and made it a perfect, short sentence that said more than it said before. I felt a rush like I had felt back in college when I completed those mind-expanding exams.

She was like an editing ninja.

And that was the moment that I realized that this was the power that I wanted to wield. I, too, wanted to be an editing ninja. When Denise decided to leave the magazine several years later, I would step up to fill her shoes, a task that I didn't believe I could be ready for as she had set the bar high. But she had taught me well. And she continues to be an important mentor and friend today.

I like writing; I need to write. It's a catharsis, a bloodletting, a necessary behavior, a reflex. But editing? Editing is my love.


  1. What a great post. Something I wholeheartedly relate to. I LIKE to write the words but I LOVE to make them behave. I consider you to be a wonderful mentor to me.
    Thank you, Sensei.

  2. I so glad you chose this path ... or that the path chose you. (Deep.) Great post. And I'm really glad that someone loves editing. :)