Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Post I Wasn't Going To Post ...

What appears below in bold italics is as far as I got in the post that I alluded to in Horn, Untooted. The remainder of the post is my continuation of those thoughts tonight.

Today was one of those days, one of those rare and wonderful days, a gift from wherever gifts are granted.

Have you ever had one of those days when you just feel lighter, as though the emotional clouds have cleared, and you're more aware of who it is you are?

It may sound effusive, but that was my day. Today I realized that I am smart and capable, that others value what I have to say.

A friend of mine is writing a book. A small book, as books go, only 150 pages or so, but the expectations for its success are enormous. The North American advance was nearly $7 million. Overseas advances are piling up quickly. And the deadline is just over a month away.

Last week, my friend asked me if I'd read the first two chapters before he sent them to his publisher. I was tremendously honored.

So he sent them and I read them, but, me being me, I also edited them – lightly – as I went along, couching all my comments with question marks, making my edits into suggestions, really, because for the love of God, who the hell am I to be editing this man?

(Sometimes, I tap into my chutzpah, like the time I challenged Kurt Vonnegut about a detail in Cat's Cradle.)

I sent the chapters back to my friend. Shortly thereafter, the phone rang. (In the past, our conversations were few and far between, not because of intention but because of life. Since he's inked this book deal, though, we talk several times a week.)

"Beth, you're a good line editor," he said. He'd never seen my editing. Why would he? It's not like he runs his columns by me before he files. But it was nice to hear. I am a good editor. I don't have a formal journalism education. My university didn't offer that curriculum. I majored in English with a focus in non-fiction writing but I only took one actual journalism class. Most of my journalism education was on the job.

But I've always had an ear for language. And the perfectionist in me can't help but edit everything I see. (Today, in a piece on The Huffington Post, I read this sentence: "SEIU Local 99 in Los Angeles -- education workers who include teacher's aids, cafeteria workers and crossing guards -- yesterday fired former Clinton spokesman Chris Lehane from a consulting contract in support of the WGA." "Teacher's aids"?! Bad punctuation and bad spelling?! Nails on a chalkboard, people!)

As I was saying, I'm a good editor. And my friend said he'd incorporate my edits into the book. And I marveled that some of my work, a tiny bit, but a bit nonetheless, will become part of this book, which everyone is banking on to become a bestseller.

It will be a great book because it's being written by a great writer, but it will be a tiny bit better because of me.

And even if I didn't make a single suggestion about his prose, I'm flattered that he calls and asks my opinion on various ideas. Hell, I'm flattered that he calls just to blow off steam.

A couple years ago, I was on the phone with Composer Dave and I admitted to him that part of me is amazed that people want to be friends with me. "Beth!" he said, incredulously. But I wasn't fishing for a compliment. I often feel so inferior to other people, less savvy, less hip, less poised, less eloquent. Even less smart, which is ridiculous for someone who qualified to join Mensa.

But I'm coming around. The frequent phone calls with the book-writing friend are demonstrating to myself that people do indeed value what I have to say, that I am a good friend, loving and supportive.

Beyond the book, I've also been feeling more adept at my job lately, too. Like my judgment is finally on point, like I can stop second-guessing myself and just perform, confident in my decisions.

I guess it all comes down to growing. A lot. Quickly. The past couple months have been full of big changes, including the end of a couple of relationships that have been integral to my life for a very long time, the beginning of my training with Brandon, and another birthday.

The closer I get to 40, the more empowered I feel.


Blogger Alison said...

I can really relate to just about everything in this post.

11:07 PM  
Blogger Dave said...

Part of me wants to say, "It's about time." About time that the Artist Currently Known as Beth realizes how wicked talented she is. But the truth is that all of us artist types need empowerment and praise and self-validation from time to time. Often more than that. I've known Beth for years now, and I can attest to her skills as an editor. She's edited much of my writing, from professional stuff to my own blog posts. I also can attest to her skills as a human being - to her wit, her grace and, yes, her beauty. (And if she's blushing right now, I don't give a damn, 'cause it's true.) Through her blog, I know that many of you know how cool she is. My holiday wish is that many of you someday get the pleasure of meeting her in person. Trust me, it's a blast.

11:12 PM  

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