Thursday, February 17, 2011

Stilling the red pen in my heart

For those of you who don't know, I work at the University of Oklahoma Press as an Editorial Assistant. Basically that means I'm the manuscript editors go-to girl. I do the "toilet scrubbing" of the editorial department, the editing no one else [ever] wants to do.

I'm making this sound absolutely terrible, but really I love it. Sure, random searches for en dashes isn't the donut at the end of my rainbow... but most of the time I thoroughly enjoy what I do. It's one step closer to the actual editing I want to do, manipulating the text to find the perfect words, the ideal plot, etc.

Yesterday, I was doing a first check for one of the editors. [This entails looking over a set of proofs that the production team has given us and making sure there aren't any blatant grammatical/typographical errors.]

The book is called, "Don't Shoot the Gentile," a man's memoirs about teaching at CSUtah, a university riddled with students whose allegiance lies with the Church of the Latter-Day Saints. In laymen's terms, the student body is 90 percent Mormon. I found myself laughing as I read his description of life in the small town of Cedar Hill, and the eccentricities of the Mormons he came into contact with. His writing was brilliant.

By chapter five, I had nearly forgotten that I was supposed to be "looking for errors." It felt too much like pleasure reading [and let me tell you, this is a rarity at OU Press where we primarily publish snooze-and-cruise historical/Native American research].

All this to say, sometimes I think editing really messes with my perspective. I'm so accustomed to looking over a text and merely reading to catch the mistakes that I feel this mentality can sometimes cross over to my everyday life. Automatically I look for what's wrong and what can be fixed instead of enjoying the good, the well-written parts [if you will] of my life.

It's a dangerous path to tread. It's the difference, I believe, between hurt and hope. For if we choose to tango with discontentment, we will be disheartened. We will always be looking for what can be altered and ways to improve our situations; we will never be satisfied.

We must choose contentment, stilling the anxious "red pen" in our hearts that desires to rewrite the story God has already written for us. The perfect story that requires no editing.


  1. I love editing, I do it all the time whenever I read. It's a bad habit. I had to get my own red pen out for this: "riddled with students who's allegiance lies" should be "whose" instead of "who's." :)

  2. Beautiful, Jena, and so true! I often think of surrendering to God as "giving up the story I was writing for myself for his story." This dovetails pretty awesomely with that deeply-held metaphor. Thanks so much for writing this.

  3. I totally understand what you're saying! I absolutely agree that it's hard to take off your "editing lens" and enjoy the piece. While I'm not an editor, I am a theatre director and I am always directing and "editing", if you will, in my mind when I go see a play. It's just second nature to me. I know I saw a great play when I enjoyed it and didn't analyze it. Those are rare instances, but when they do happen, they mean a lot to me. You just had one of those today! Yay!!

  4. It's great that you love what you do. I think it the most important thing- without passion anything would be a nightmare. I hope you make it to be the editor you want to be :)