Last week, I was checking out a online travel essay site getting ready to launch later this year, thinking about submitting a piece or two. As I read the extremely-lengthy submission guidelines, I started shaking my head. Oh. It’s one of those places, where they want the wri-tahhhh with “I TOIL GRIMLY FOR MY ART” written on their precious, bulging, gifted foreheads. I kept reading, and even started chuckling to myself. The site's two editors were more than blunt about how good they were and how much you were going to need their guidance, and that if they bothered to consider a piece from you, you had better expect it to be torn to pieces…and they weren’t expressing this with any sense of humor either, although they claim to luuvvv pieces with hu-mahhhh. Get this: “Any work submitted with two spaces after the period will be sent back to have the extra spaces removed before it is even read.” And this: “Question: Will my work be edited? Answer: Well, is the sky blue? Yes. Yes, your work will be edited. A wise man once said, "Behind every great writer is a great editor." If you disagree with this aphorism, then we suggest that you stop reading these guidelines and submit your work elsewhere. That said, [Pretentious-Plus] prides itself on providing top-quality editorial support to all writers whom we select to work with us. (Authors will be able to make final decisions on any piece before publication.)

Oh, get f-ed, you two. You haven’t even started your site yet and you sound completely unbearable. “Top-quality editorial support…” oh giggle giggle, THAT’S US, and you MAY get the CHANCE to WORK with US! Goddamn. From one of the editor’s bios: “[Snottella] is full of disdain for the general dumbing down of journalism and the gradual loss of the art of writing. [Pretentious-Plus] is her effort to combat the affronts she falls victim to as a result of the frequent overuse of Twitter-appropriate language, poor spelling, and factual errors.” Oh, reeeeeaaaa-laaaaay. Well, thank gawwwd for people like you and your exceptional grasp of the English language and your generosity in offering your relentless criticism towards absolutely every other writer now living. Thank you so much. What an inspiration.

This is one of the main reasons I will never go into an academic writer’s program. They tend to produce turds like that and, I honestly think, people who come to believe the process of good writing can be nothing but long and painful and who question their every terminal period space. No thanks. I’ll take inelegant and enjoyable over crafted and miserable every single time. As a matter of fact, I may start using THREE spaces after a terminal period, or I might be INCONSISTENT with my use of tense! HA! God.

It’s not like I don’t understand some of their points. There’s an exceptional amount of really poor writing out there, even from places not named after an unfortunate bowel occurrence. We are assessed quite often through our lifetimes over the quality of our written expression, and we should at least be able to choose to write competently when required to do so. What bothers me more than technical errors and grammar fails and shoddy organization, however, is lack of voice. If you are writing a news article, this is a plus – I come from the old-school journalism idea that a reporter’s job is to report, not form language to twist facts. But in other things…I see so many technically well-written pieces that end up being forgettable. There are many good writers. There are not so many that can deliver their unique voice and make words and ideas sing.

All writers benefit from having other eyes go over their work, mainly to see if what you are trying to say is being clearly expressed and if your expression brought about the change you want to see in your reader. For that is what writing is about, or any kind of creative effort that you put to the public – you want the person who experiences it to take something from it, something they did not have before, or something that is meaningful to them. Perspective is gained by sometimes leaving work sit and reading with fresh eyes later. But I will never be OK with the concept of the endless revision, that what you do can never be good enough or smart enough, and dammit, people won’t like it. Sometimes your first ideas are the best, and to rework and revise without a strong sense of who you are as a writer is to probably kill off your voice, to be replaced by your ego-mad editor’s snooty overworked prose. Heh.

A good editor is a rare thing. By nature it should be an ego-less job, not an opportunity to show off how smart and superior you are. You point out the tech errors and flow problems, sure, but most important is trying to help your writer be who they are, through their own words and own process. This is tremendously difficult, for sometimes a brilliant voice can be so shoved down by expectation and rejection and all the other lovely things the world can bring that it takes great insight, patience, and nurturing to bring it out as it should be, shining and defiant against those who think there is really only one “write” way. A writer who has been fortunate enough to work with this kind of editor knows how lucky they are. Not all good editors are right for all writers; not all writers need as much coaching and guidance as others. It’s all quite individual, and a good editor knows that, too.

If you are a writer and you keep unhappily laboring over your work and inflating its importance far past anything reasonable, looking for someone else to always tell you what to do or working only for the praise of others, maybe you’d be happier doing something else. If you don’t enjoy the process, the meat of what you do, what you spend the bulk of your time doing, how is that successful? Why do it? It’s not noble to suffer; it’s just stupid. Then again, maybe you are just a miserable bastard anyway, and would make a surly cook, disagreeable cowboy, or petulant podiatrist regardless.

Period.[space space space]HA!