January 3, 2012
Avoiding the Warden
I’ve mentioned my muse many times. I respect my muse but I’m also intimidated by her; I suck up to her as much as possible. After reading virtualDavis’s comment I realize that in the process of kissing up to the muse, I’ve neglected mentioning my other writing collaborator. virtualDavis refers to this entity as a warden; I refer to mine as an editor, although warden is also fitting.
Have I failed to mention her because I’m avoiding her and her warden-like tendencies? Or is it because editors are overworked, underpaid and just don’t get the same attention as muses? The editor isn’t as awe-inspiring as the muse, but she’s just as important.
I was first introduced to my editor in my sophomore year of high school in my Advanced Comp. class. I was intimidated by the upperclassmen that made up the class and by the teacher too. They all seemed much more literary than I. I kept my mouth shut, my ears open and did the work.
Then we got an interesting assignment. We were told that each of us had an inner editor that was naturally adversarial. This editor hampered and tampered with our writing by getting us to focus more on the reader’s reaction and less on the actual content. These editors also filled us with such paranoia about the mechanics of writing we were paralyzed to true creative writing.
The assignment consisted of three parts. The first was to describe your inner editor, physically and mentally. The second was to spend one hour writing everything that came to your mind without editing any of it. The last part consisted of re-imagining your internal editor as a friend not an adversary.
I really got into this assignment. It’s one memory of high school that hasn’t faded into a huge fuzzy blob in my mind (Thank you Lord that the rest has). I found it easy to visualize my adversarial editor. In a nutshell, she was a tall blond in a tweed suit, hair pulled severely back into a knot. She sat at an immaculate desk waiting to trounce me. And trounce me she did. I just hadn’t realized it before.
The second part of the assignment was slightly more intriguing. Imagine me, an adolescent angst ridden girl who could look out her window and see the house of her unrequited love (who was probably out with that FRESHMAN). Add to that the fact that my friends and I swore like sailors when out of earshot of parents or teachers. Then throw in my inclination to snarkiness (even if the word snarky wasn’t yet in existence). That editor of mine never had a chance. As soon as I wrote the first f***, she was forgotten and I was free. This was in the days of long hand and I sat on my bed and wrote non-stop for an hour. The thought of my teacher reading it made me smile. He didn’t know what he was in for.
The third part, re-imagining your editor, was a turning point for me. I remember my editor’s hair was loose and she wore jeans. And we became friends. She wasn’t a warden anymore; she was a collaborator.
My teacher was astonished by my paper. I’m sure he’d never noticed me before I gave him the very detailed inner-workings of my mind. I got an A+ and a “Why are you hiding your light under a bushel?” in the margin. He even talked to me about it after class. Since then, my editor has become my cheerleader. We’re on the same side.
But I’ve realized recently that in re-creating my editor, I’ve created a monster…
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