Here again, sitting at my desk and trying to reason with patently unreasonable editors. They are the bane of my existence — indeed, editors should be the first to go in layoffs and the last to be rehired.
Imagine if Shakespeare had an editor. He spelled his name six different ways and was an atrocious speller overall. I could just imagine my editor here at Hamodia rejecting his stuff — “Sorry, William, we’ll stick with Mendy Hecht until we get somebody better.”
About the only good thing I could chalk up to the editor is the foil they give me. “No, that mistake was not mine, it was a technical glitch.” Technical glitch in newspaper parlance means that the writer excelled but the editor bombed. It’s a nicer way of saying that the editor himself needs an editor. Or not.
Take the story I once wrote about goldfish. Fascinating!
Did you know that goldfish were the first pets recorded in history? Did you know that they don’t have stomachs? (Is that why they’re always dying?) I bet you can’t name what a herd (or should I say a school) of goldfish is called! Unless you read my article. It’s a “troubling of goldfish.”
The problem is that you never got to read these fascinating facts since the editor nixed them. It was supposed to be solely about the goldfish found on the subway in the Bronx, they said. A short cute brief about it; that’s all.
I just hate when they get technical.
The first task handed me by my editor (grrr!) when I give in an article or column is to cut it to the agreed-upon-in-advance word length. Why write 800 words when we made up 400? Good question.
Writing an article is similar to composing a song. Every sentence, every paragraph, every apostrophe just belongs there, singing together like a harmonic orchestra, the strings, the percussions, the woodwinds — everything fits together. Take out one note and it all goes flat.
That is where the editor and I fail to see eye to eye. Where I see a melodic song, he sees “fat to be cut.” Where I see a 500-word treasure house of gems he sees quotes that are unneeded, details best left unsaid, and metaphors that are inexplicable.
Cutting an article is like finding excess money in a state budget to slash. Medicaid or defense? Social Security or interest on the national debt? Funding that study on the reason wide-eyed green goldfish have a memory two seconds longer than their golden brothers or sponsoring the analysis of whether or not lemmings’ enlarged hearts cause their weak spines?
Should I take out that great quotable from Biden that admittedly has little to do with the story? Or leave that in and remove instead the paragraph detailing how many goldfish die every year due to climate change. The article can stand very well without it.
But I can’t. Every one of my words is both literally and figuratively priceless. But like the clouds dissipating when the sun emerges after a stormy summer weekend afternoon in a Vermont forest, like the smile of a dimpled teenager crumbling in the face of a younger sibling playing with her toys when she comes home after the regents, the editor comes and destroys my edifice, removing (what he considers) extraneous words and (what he considers) poor metaphors.
The editor should rather expend their considerable energy spent battling me by fighting the publisher for more space for my extra words. Take away that ad, add extra pages, make the words smaller — even my mistakes belong in print.
So my request to you, delicious readers, is some intervention. Call Hamodia’s office, email, sign the petition. Tell them: Writers No Best!
But alas, the world is given to the strong, not the right. It’s an editor’s world, the writer just lives in it.
Here, Mr. Editor. Take my article and don’t tell me about the relish with which you sliced it, carved it, demolished it, tampered with it. That’s my heart you hear breaking.