Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mr. Clean

In many respects September is the "new year" for writers.  This is the month when most magazines, publishers and journals once again open their doors and windows to let in a fresh breeze of writing.  And, consequently, there is a mad rush to fill the slots that these publishers are providing.

For this reason, my September becomes busier than ever, as editors begin to correspond with me daily in the aftermath of my wide-ranging submissions of essays, stories, poems, columns, articles, and book proposals.  And because I don't keep good records, I am often surprised to hear from some of these folks (yeah or nay) and I have to ask them to refresh my memory.  "What was it I sent you?" I usually ask.

"You don't know?"

I pretend to be older than I am.  I make excuses . . . hardening of the arteries and all.  And then I eventually admit, "I have hundreds of pages in circulation.  Just tell me which pages we are talking about so we can get on with it." 

Which leads me to this story:

Last week, following a series of emails and phone calls with one editor, I came to realize that we were friends (though we have never met).  We not only had been exchanging pleasantries for years, but we had also shared more personal information about our families, our histories, our stresses and goals.  In short, we were communicating beyond the usual formal approach to publishing.

After this editor expressed some of her anxiety over deadlines and the stresses of bringing out a new issue every month, I asked her how I could help.  (Really, I wanted to help, and even volunteered to ease some of her editorial responsibilities if possible.)

"You help by being Mr. Clean," she said.  "I rarely have to edit your work.  It's clean from start to finish."

Of course, she wasn't talking about my language here, but my readable text (I suppose).  But her analogy made me laugh.  And I can dig it, too.

Next time I mop the kitchen floor (which I do, folks! . . . you can ask my wife), I'll be aware of the importance of keeping my writing crisp, concise, and controlled. 

I'll be Mr. Clean.  And I plan to get my ear pierced and my head shaved on Friday so I can look the part.


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