In my anxiety today I had another look at online or distance education courses in editing. I think I may have found some actual options. I also came across this useful lecture from the USQ – University of Southern Queensland  on what an editor is and a bit about the industry. It was a less depressing message than I expected.

Inspiration and a backlash against Realism

I read a great little article by Writers Edit on staying inspired as a writer. I agree with the author on many of her points. Though I am finding that reading ‘Art Objects’ by Jeanette Winterson is changing my perspective on books reflecting real life. I’m not as convinced by the argument that all writing (fiction) is based on life or should be. Jeanette makes the point that this kind of Realism come from the Victorian era and reflects a backlash against the Romantics who embraced innovation, imagination and art for arts sake. Realism was focused creating fiction that reflected “real life” and had a certain didactic quality that was very socially “responsible” in its message. Jeanette makes the argument that books do not have to be (and shouldn’t) just be a version of everyday life; that novels are in fact not a version of certain facts, but a whole new reality to be entered and understood. In a way she is concerned with what is at the heart of a novel, that it goes beyond just mimicry of life.

A great break down of her book can be found here.

“Myth #1: A good writer doesn’t need an editor.”

I’m experiencing a lush mania for researching the roles and types of editors out there. I found a warm, useful little article from Huffington Post regarding myths about editors.

“There’s a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding about editors and what they do. Here are seven of those myths that I’d like to clean up:

Myth #1: A good writer doesn’t need an editor.

In these days of self-publication and “service” publishers — who take a percentage of sales for letting the author do all of the work — you hear this a lot. “I’ve slaved over this manuscript for years. I checked it through a hundred times. Microsoft Word’s Spelling and Grammar comes up clean. It’s ready for publication.”

Want an example of a professional book from a world-class author who convinced her publishers to put out the book as-is, without a deep developmental edit (see #3 below)? Look at J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Pretty good book, and it’s sold millions of copies, absolutely — but it’s at least a hundred pages longer than it needs to be. There’s needless repetition, uneven pacing, and side-plots that go nowhere. You’ll notice that the previous and subsequent books in the bestselling series were much shorter and much tighter. Rowling worked more closely with her editors.”

The truth in despair

Few people know what they’re doing; they stumbled along and find great jobs eventually. Yet this is seldom said and much of what I see are “adults” who seem to shoulder their responsibilities with ease. They can look after themselves and the world doesn’t make them want to retreat to a cave. Do they cry at night? Do they want to kill themselves? I don’t wish that despair on people but I’d like to know who’s actually functional and who’s pretending. Is this the mask of getting older? I’m alone when surrounded by a world that I suspect is pretending.

I’m compelled in my writing to regurgitate those quiet, shady truths that seem a bit despicable and leave people feeling they are standing in a long abandoned room. We want to speak into those spaces about life being beautiful and worthy of our lifespan, but more often than not this is just to fill the uncomfortable feeling. I don’t advocate a state of perpetual depression or giving up, I just like to sit in those spaces without pushing them aside. We humans are not all joy and sensuality, we equally made up of aguish and indignation.

I have a nature that’s fairly unflinching in the face of darkness. It leads me to being fascinated by despair. I don’t delight in it, it’s not abstract or just a curiosity, but a deep human reality that is a comfort to see in some instances. I don’t see the world as a glass half full/empty issue; that all can be cured by having a positive perspective. I’m preoccupied with despair because I often find it to be honest. Uncomfortably honest in a culture obsessed with the success, performance and appearances.

I am driven to find this truth in humans and speak to it. Truth is not easily spoken about though. I don’t mean to invoke the childish notion of seeking the one true truth; that it always sets us free and must be nobly sought after. I mean truth in this instance to mean the stripping back of pretense and self told delusions. To simply hear a friend talk about their depression or universal restlessness and not shy away it. I wouldn’t call this easy to do and it does take practice. But people are pulsing and struggling. Ignoring the homeless man won’t mean you’ll scream any less on the inside. In being able to actually hear the pain of others we really are less likely to ignore it in ourselves.

I would like to bring some of this to Scissors Paper Pen if I have the chance. I am sending in an application soon. I love the idea of the opportunity to write for them, but I also figure it’s a great platform to speak to other people like myself who chose or are compelled to live ‘the artist life’ and hence struggle with disillusionment more chronic than poverty. I haven’t got all the ideas formed in my head but I’ve got the anger, first hand experience and reflection on the issue to undoubtably come up with something powerful. I’m still wrestling with wether there is a ‘writers utopia’ or not; if through enough exploitation, internships and frittering away our talents for free we really do get what we deserve (and it pays well).

Either way, I’m driven to turn my year of agony and uncertainty into something of use to others; to form it into raw advice ungarnished with bullshit. Those in despair don’t need me to essentially write for them that which they could also get from a useless cat poster. It’s brutal trying not to hide from my own unhappiness and where it comes from. But it would be fulfilling to be able to turn such a lost experience into useful words for others.