Gratitude

Today’s gratitude list is brought to you by this morning’s burnt cup of coffee.

I’m fucking grateful that dear facebook showed me an article about how language editors of academic material should have content knowledge while I’m training (for free) for a new editing gig, trying to learn a whole new style, because how else will I continue to feel bad for myself in my gorgeous rural summer.

I’m fucking grateful that I decided that my real-life persona editor website should be accompanied by twitter, because how else would I know that people seem able to tweet all day AND get writing done? Thanks for letting me know I need to step up my game.

I’m fucking grateful that although I live in a pretty river valley that there is a cafe not so terribly far away where I can go get coffee and get some actual fucking work done.

What are you grateful for today?

 

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The Pastoral

One of the glorious things about being freelance is that you can work from anywhere that you can stand to edit. Today I write from my morning yard office under a crab apple tree. This lovely, if slightly buggy, workspace is shaded in the morning, and smells right now of overripe apples.

(My afternoon office is an arrangement of chairs across the yard that is appropriately shady at around beer o’clock. It has a view of my small neighborhood mountain. My morning office offers a more secluded view of crabapple branches, some weeds, and the compost bucket.)

My canine coworker has taken to chewing on the crab apples. Fortunately she does not appear to swallow them. Or she has an iron stomach. One or the other. It was my coworker who encouraged me to work outside this morning. She has a crush on the neighbor dog, and is hoping he will appear.

But if he doesn’t, she still will settle in the yard, first in the sun and then, panting, in the shade. She likes to smell the wind and keep an eye on the squirrels. And until the bugs drive me mad, I will too.

Job Titles I Considered for my Business Card

Saving Your Ass for $25/hour*

(*The Spouse came up with that one to describe my previous jobs.)

Writing Nudge

(This one requires a Yiddish pronunciation, “noodge.”)

Comma Slinger

Ask me about components of a doi!

(I can also explain ISBNs. It’s a two-fer!)

Defender of the Serial Comma

Will Write Poetry for Food.

Explaining the distinction between em and en dashes and then reassuring you that you don’t have to worry about them and I’ll take care of it since 2004.

You Let a Paragraph Defeat You?

I mean, really, who let’s a paragraph boss them around like that? You were so productively procrastinating that you did multiple loads of laundry, walked the dog, AND applied for jobs? That’s a lot of work to avoid one measly transition.

How bad can it be? I mean, people do all sorts of dangerous, difficult, scary things in a work day. You are neither an immigrant lawyer for toddlers nor a firefighter.  You don’t even have to keep a middle-school Latin class occupied for an afternoon. It’s just a fucking paragraph.

Added bonus: you know how to write. You have inner resources to deal with this paragraph. You have skills and techniques and habits. Or at least the ghost of them. And if it’s really not working? Like, if it’s not you, but the paragraph? Well, you know what to do. Delete that fucker. Kill the darling.

Get to it.

Kill Your Darlings, version 2988

Writers like to toss off Virginia Woolf’s admonishment to kill your darlings. I always thought it was advice to be ruthless in revision. And it is. But what this excellent piece of writing advice does not tell you is that identifying darlings can be difficult.

Darlings disguise themselves as really killer sentences. Really good. Like the best sentences you think you can ever write. Or if you are a poet, they are an amazing image, line break, or turn of phrase. But if they don’t fit what your work is trying to do? Kill them.

Darlings, sneaky things who clearly do not want to be killed, also hide in familiar text. They can be the perfectly normal competently written paragraph that never stands out because it is so innocuous. But if that perfectly ordinary piece of text does not go in the direction your work wants to go, kill that darling.

Darlings are often old. They are the grandmother sentences. They have always been there. They started the whole damn manuscript for fuck’s sake! Kill them. They are not really your grandmothers, they are just sentences. They do not fit the current direction of your work, and they must go.

How do you weed out the darlings?

July Notes

Grad School Friend and I fell out of touch. She moved to upstate New York and then out west. Then one day I saw her name somewhere. It took me a minute to connect her full name with my grad school friend. I was pretty sure it was the same person, but I clicked on her website just to be sure, and read one of her essays. Ah, yes, this was definitely my friend. Killer prose backed up by killer transitions. I don’t choose my friends lightly.

When we finally reconnected, she said that she remembered how we talked about politics one day after workshop. She remembers me saying that we write our beliefs, because we (at least her and me) are introverted people who aren’t good at political organization. But what we can do is write.

My words are coming back to haunt me. I’ve been having a hard time writing on this blog because this is really just a place for me to vent my first-world non-immigrant memoir problems. I can finely articulate my writing and editing outrages, but there are larger outrages I should be yelling about.

This week I have begun working on The Fucker again. It will not save the world. But it will be the best thing I can write, I hope. And I will justify my petty complaints here, but hoping that you will find solace in them as you write your own Fucker, and that your own Fucker will do its wordy little share in helping to save the world.

I learned empathy and a sense of history, in part, from reading books (and articles). Both George Orwell and Albert Camus will tell you that describing something in the kind of detail that makes the reader really see something as if for the first time, rather than relying on cliches and “received phrases” is a political act. (I think it was Camus who wrote that if the person reading the paper with his morning coffee knew what really happened when the paper said “justice was served” to describe an execution, that is, if it were described as if the person were there, the reader would spit out his coffee.)

I guess what I’m saying is that I can’t give up on literature. So today I’m working on radical revision of my least favorite chapter. I’ve rewritten and rewritten it, and it just doesn’t work. So. Time to write it differently. And just in case your think my words are cool, calm, and collected, I’ll tell you that I almost cried at my writing group yesterday from frustration about this chapter. They didn’t even critique me; we just sit in cafes and write together. Peer pressure.

How are you balancing anger, fear, frustration, and writing?

Silence = Death

What I Have Done

Talked a great deal about the horror of separating children from their parents at the US border on Facebook

Shared a lot of other people’s well-reported or well-thought-out posts on the horrors of a zero-tolerance policy at the border

Looked around my beautiful (shabby, still-half-in-boxes) little farmhouse surrounded by prettiness and felt both grateful and unworthy

Thought about my family who came over as immigrants; Jews were seen as unsavory and unclean in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century by a lot of people in this country. If my family had not come over when they did from Germany, Poland, and Lithuania, it is likely they, their children, and/or their grandchildren would have been killed. Certainly I would not have existed. Nor would I be living in my ridiculously pretty neck of the woods. Nor would I have a cheerfully cranky copyeditor blog.

Sent money to ACLU. Am going to also support RAICES. If you can afford a cheap bottle of ink or a new paperback every month, you can afford a $15/mo donation. If you can’t donate time or labor, consider donating money.

Written to my representatives.

What I Have Not Done

Talked about immigration in my daily life with the people I know here (I have talked some with my friends in my former abodes). There is a lot of eye-rolling at Trump, but this is not a time to share generic despair and then move on to talk about the weather. This is figure out how to fucking act to be a moral citizen of this country, and fucking act. I need to figure out a way to act on a small but daily basis.

Took to the streets; I’m beginning to see how it is hard to take to the streets in a rural environment

Always spoken up when someone says something racist or xenophobic

What I Am Trying To Do

Keep this conversation going in all forums I participate in whether in person or online wherever relevant, and maybe sometimes when it is not relevant.

Never again let a comment against immigration pass unremarked; I’m going to work up some good lines so I can just say them and not kick myself for saying nothing later

What have you done? What have you not done? What are you trying to do?