Thursday, October 9, 2008

Like most poets, I can't make a living as a poet, so I have a handful of other jobs, one of which is working as a freelance copyeditor for university presses. This entails hours of untangling passive voice constructions, soothing ruffled haters of semicolons, and deleting and deleting and deleting repetition (a particular problem with ex-dissertations). It's not a thrilling job but not a terrible one either--rather analogous, I suppose, to being a composer who also spends a lot of time playing scales. What I mean is that editing other people's books may not be creative or intellectually stimulating; but it does require grammatical expertise, a focus on petty detail, and a sentence-reviser's musical ear. And unlike my own writing, editing allows me to stay detached. I have no particular stake in the matter other than wanting to do a good clean job that keeps the author feeling comfortable and secure and the press feeling satisfied enough to hire me again.

Sometimes I fret about having a job that doesn't demand my soul, but then again I've found myself engaged in such a variety of unpaid soul-sucking ventures that I think a few part-time, undemanding, middlebrow, hourly-wage editing projects don't necessarily mitigate against my ability to keep up a heavy schedule of falling off metaphorical Empire State Buildings.

Encouraging quote for the day: "The giant and the conjurer now knew that their wicked course was at an end, and they stood biting their thumbs and shaking with fear. Jack, with his sword of sharpness, soon killed the giant, and the magician was then carried away by a whirlwind; and every knight and beautiful lady who had been changed into birds and beasts returned to their proper shape."

--from "A History of Jack the Giant-Killer," collected in The Blue Fairy Book, edited by Andrew Lang (1889)

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