Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Married an Editor: The How Not Tos and the How Tos are IN DA HOUSE: Editing Advice, How to Write a Bio, How to do things that are Unnatural to You

Ya know what I love doing? I love creating. Poetry. Prose. Performance art.

Ya know what I don't love doing? Editing.

Ya know what I detest doing? Learning the hard way to make sure I have a second party edit my work.

Ya know what I feel ambivalent about doing? Writing a bio for myself.

On the first matter (CREATING), it's exciting and relatively stress free to create. I do it. I do it well. I enjoy doing it.

On the second matter (EDITING), it's not exciting, it involves concentration and a moderate amount of discipline and stress. Discipline and stress. Some people actually thrive under those conditions. I do not. Of course I do it anyway, but I often still miss things.

Which leads me to the third matter (DISCOVERING ERRORS WHEN IT'S TOO LATE): it sucks, it leads me to the same conclusion every time (i.e, HAVE SANDY -my wife- LOOK OVER YOUR WORK BEFORE YOU SEND IT OUT ANYWHERE, PERIOD). I wish I had some sort of alarm attached to my finger that would go off before I click send. The Have Me Edited by Sandy/Someone alarm. Perhaps you have wished for one of these, too? Every writer should have one. Every speaker should probably have one, too, to filter all those Foot in the Mouth moments that find a way of rolling right off the tip of your fecund tongue. Everyone should have a THINK-READ-SEE alarm. Especially haphazard, impulsive creators like me who put things in semi-permanent cyber ink out into space on a daily basis. What I love about having my own blog is that I can edit at any time. I can publish it and then read it and edit it, and read it and edit it, and read it and edit it. It has formed bad habits in me, and I find it hard to turn off the expectation for a re-write and its lax effect. Still, no matter how many times I read my blog entries, I always miss something. That's where my second hand woman comes in: my second pair of eyes.  I call her Sandy. She's my Superhero See-er. I have learned this lesson many times, and I do the same thing over and over. How many times do I have to touch the hot stove before I say, "Gee, I'm tired of burning myself and making a fool of myself. Maybe I should try something ELSE!" Oy vey.

Another mistake I make is leaving it to the editor of the publication to be my second pair of eyes (or second editor). I have adopted these false thoughts and I cannot get rid of them: Editors won't publish anything unless it's perfect because my work is representing them; they will make sure it's perfect; they will send me back the proof for a final reading before they publish my work; they'll take care of everything - it's their job as editors. Yeah, that's right, take alllll the pressure off of my shoulders and leave it to "them." Wow, the voice in my head is a real EINSTEIN sometimes. No, no, no. I am SO wrong when I think this way. If you think this way, too, stop yourself for just a minute her and breathe in and out with me. Now repeat this mantra: My work represents me. I am responsible for the way I represent myself. I am the only one responsible for my work. Feeling more responsible already? You're welcome!

As for me, I don't know if it is because I grew up so privileged and took my sense of autonomy and personal responsibility for granted or what. But I actually think this way. Why would I settle for my own mediocrity when I could easily edit a few more times and put something out that I can feel proud of? I'm lazy. I'm ever-loving lazy. I hate looking back on something I just created BEFORE I put it out there. I prefer to put (it) out and then genuflect - I mean, reflect/review/revise. Why am I driven to let others view all of my humiliating errors (eros?) before I revise? Is it another one of my self-imposed curses or is it some kind of sideways brilliant strategy to build stamina by repeatedly humiliating myself so that over time I feel nothing in the face of my imperfections? I don't think it's that clever or meaningful; I think it's just that old black magic that has me in its spell - that wellspring of wondrous impulsivity that lives within me and expresses itself in my performance art (if it's performance he/art, then perhaps I am just leading with my heart and letting my head go to hell...ouuuuch).

And on the fourth matter (WRITING A BIO), I think it's quite common to feel baffled by The Bio. A short bio can be just as challenging as a long bio. Is the bio intended to tell people WHO YOU ARE or WHAT YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS ARE? That's what stops me up (not so much intestinally, but intellectually). I think this distinction, or lack thereof, is the main barrier that I have faced when trying to write a bio. I don't like having to sum my SELF up in a few lines or even in a paragraph. It always feels unnatural, inaccurate and silly. I'd almost rather just have my name: Jess Mason McFadden. Nothing else needed. Doesn't my name say enough about me? Alright, maybe it doesn't. But what does? I always feel trapped: like whatever I say will not be enough and will be superficial and inaccurate. I guess sometimes you just have to suck it up and be superficial and inaccurate. Thinking for hours, crumpling a lot of pieces of paper into tiny balls and tossing them into the recycling bin is not going to make your summation of yourself any less superficial or inaccurate. I am socially uncomfortable describing WHAT I "DO" let alone WHO I "AM."

I have made the mistake, on many occasions, of starting my bio with: "Jessica Mason McFadden IS...is a mother, is a writer, is a student, is is is. That's the big mistake - trying to use a bio as a place to tell someone WHO I am. I don't know WHO I am, and trying to tell someone else WHO I am (and trying to do so using superficial accomplishments) is pointless. From hereon-out, I plan to try to leave the AMs and the ISs at home. I'll stick with a random and meaningless list of things I do or have done. It just makes it easier on myself and makes me feel a tiny bit better about having to represent myself in a limited simplistic counter intuitive way (instead of in the endless comprehensive way that I prefer - a way that would never and could never be captured in a biography). Remember when Facebook would only allow you to write status updates that began with So-in-so "is"? Yeah, thank God that practice changed. The pressure of having to BE something all the time. Whew. Just kill me now. Jess Mason McFadden is NOT going to BE anything today, thank you very much. She is, however, going to feel a little more confident and a little less ambivalent when writing her bogus bios from now on.

For shits and giggles, but mostly shits, here goes:

Jess Mason McFadden grew up in Western New York. She lives with her wife and daughters in the Midwest. She graduated from Western Illinois University in 2006, where she was granted numerous awards and distinctions and was named Department Scholar of the Department of English. Jess blogs her he/art out, and her poetry has been published in Saltwater Quarterly, Sinister Wisdom, Read these Lips, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Breadcrumb Scabs, and Spinozablue. She recently wrote an article for Gender Focus, and plans to continue her graduate education in Clinical Psychology next Fall.

TA-DA. That was painful. But it went by quicly and now it's over. Please promise me you won't hold me to it. Please promise me you won't care about any of it. Thank you. So be it, friends. Now, let me tell you who I REALLY am...

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Exactly.

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