2.20.2013

Not Talented? Then Represent

You read that right!: Not Talented? Not Gifted? So Represent Those Who Are says Thomas J. Stanley. And I concur!

Doesn't that title make you think, almost straight away, of Tom Cruise screaming: Show Me The Money! to Cuba Gooding Jr.? I immediately thought about that scene, although I've never watched Jerry Maguire. In that scene, Tom C., was showing Cuba G., his sports star client, in a no-holds-barred-way just how passionate, how in his corner he really was in order to retain his business.

So, where am I going with this? Have you ever felt a strong passion towards a particular hobby, career, lifestyle, or vocation and known full well that there was just no way you could make it work? You have a strong interest, even a passion, but not the means to make it a reality. So what do you do then? You don't want to be left in the sidelines, so you represent or enable, somehow, those who successfully pursue that passion. That's a way to make a difference.

I've often joked to my mom that I'm not a great writer, I'm an amazing editor. Yet, if you ask me what a compound predicate is, I would look at you like a deer in the headlights. In my job as an editorial production staffer, at a professional association, I edit weekly many thousands of words. I certainly know when a word or comma is out of place, and how to format a paper so it matches our company's standards or style sheet. However, I have never worked for a publisher, nor have I attended trade conventions where editing and grammar are analyzed in detail and can be part of inside jokes.

I was never the grammar nazi/teacher's pet in English class--you know, the girl that everyone rolled their eyes at when she had her hand eagerly raised trying to be the first to answer that impossible compound adverb question the teacher threw out to the class. What I did develop, through many an English/grammar and translation class was a sense for what looks and is correct on a written page. There is a right way the author's tone, sense, and the content can be communicated.

I'm a passionate reader, and I enjoy reading millions upon millions of words a week. I enjoy reading for pleasure, for knowledge, and for my work. That's why typos and mis-spellings drive me crazy (especially when I'm writing) when I read material. I want to correct those typos immediately so to remove the "mark" on the page and on the author, that those small mistakes can cause. But reading for editing is like peeling an onion, there are so many layers. You could keep reading and keep finding things to fix.

I see many talented, highly-educated professionals and academics trying to put together their thoughts in inefficient ways, and, it makes me want to run to them with a pencil in hand to help correct that phrase that's just not coming out right. Help fix that paragraph, which is a five line run-on. Or tackle that white paper that has no organization or headings. Or uses footnotes instead of endnotes!

I want to help these folks, because they're really good at what they research, study, and communicate but they need just a little extra oomph to allow their words to be all that they can be. I want them to look good.

So, in my own way, I'm "representing" those talented researchers and subject matter experts, who struggle with their sentence structure, by helping them express their written voice to its full extent.

As an editor, especially at a small company, you're not likely to get fame and fortune, your name is not likely to be on the lips of all your co-workers and superiors, and you're not likely to get an employee of the month plaque/star/etc., but you are definitely the person who gets the odd phone call to ask how to best phrase something, what's the best word to use in a sentence, and what's a  good word to mean so-and-so. Sometimes, I even get the calls to find out if the meaning of a phrase is clear and straight forward enough, in English, so that an English-as-a-second-language speaker can still understand it--bonus points if you know a different language.

The role I play is a behind-the-scenes role that hasn't gotten me much acknowledgement, professional prestige, or more dollar bills. But it's definitely the role that I wouldn't trade for anything. I enjoy reading a variety of written works and not having to specialize in a particular type of product (say, children's fiction magazines, or dessert cookbooks) and getting to meet and work with (sometimes only via email or over the phone) authors from across the globe. Sometimes, I get to meet these authors in person each year when I work at the annual conference. Those are neat, full-circle encounters.

Today, I discovered a great grammar website that helps me refresh some of the grammar rules and terminology I learned in school years ago. I like to be able to back my knowledge with more than a "it just reads right this way" and instead have facts, terminology, and rules that others before me created for consistency. I usually have a terrible mind for recalling all these technicalities, even though I follow them to the letter every day. Being able to succeed in this area helps me feel like I can really make a difference with every word I read and edit.

I like helping people and editing publications and written communications for a professional association helps me do just that, just on a little bit of my own terms. Kinda.