Once in seventh grade, I was excused from classes to compete in a spelling bee at a school nearby. Our team was made up of the brightest students, but I didn't feel like I fit in at all. I just kept wondering why I was there.
Spelling didn't seem like something people could be passionate about, not even people who were good at it. It was just a way to avoid being wrong. Right?
As we entered the auditorium, my anxiety began to build and soon I was standing at a microphone looking into a hall full of faces. I heard the word being spoken by the judge. I pictured it vaguely in my head, and began groping my way along from letter to letter. The first few letters I was sure of, but I advanced slowly in order to have more time to think when I got to the harder parts. Finally, I finished.
"Incorrect," the voice said. My eyes teared up. My first word! Wrong!? And I had to sit out for the rest of the competition because of that one stupid word – license.
Maybe they were wrong, I told myself. Who are they to say? But there was no debating it. I just didn't know.
In college, I continued not caring about the correctness of spelling or grammar – I loved writing and mainly cared about having good and genuine ideas. What I loved was spending hours in Houghton Library studying the handwritten drafts of famous manuscripts by authors like Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Edgar Allen Poe and Sylvia Plath because you could see the cross-outs and rewritten passages – the mistakes let you see how they thought. Sometimes you could even see the brown ring left by their cup of coffee. The traces and mistakes! What I loved most was following the traces of their process and learning how these unique people each ended up with what they considered right.
As your editor, I have a passion for following the traces of your thoughts. I enjoy figuring out what it is that you mean, then helping you to say it in a way that more clearly conveys that to your readers.