I make my living as an editor. Editing is more than just commas and spelling. It’s more than grammar. My favorite part of the editing process occurs on what I guess you could call the macro level, where you’re looking at things like overall organization, style, flow, voice, and whether the author’s points are clear. I love editing, and I think I’m pretty good at it. (Full disclosure: I’m much better at fixing other people’s writing than my own. Sometimes I look at something I’ve written and think, “Editor, edit thyself.”)
The thing is, I can’t turn off my editor brain when I’m reading regular, non-work stuff. Editor brain is the only brain I have. So I read everything — books, magazines, blog posts, tweets — critically. By “critically” I mean like this: “exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation <critical thinking>.” I don’t mean it in a negative way at all, although sometimes, it can get tricky. Sometimes editor brain = bitchy brain. It happens.
As a person who suffers from editor brain, it’s hard for me to find things I like to read. It’s especially hard on the internet. In theory, I like to read blogs (and there are some blogs I like reading a whole lot). In practice, many blogs I find don’t stay in my Google Reader for long because I can’t enjoy reading something if it offends my editor brain. And there are myriad things that offend my editor brain, and they go way beyond just poor grammar. There’s bad writing. There’s shilling. There’s too much blogging about blogging. There’s name dropping and awful nicknames. I have so many blog dealbreakers it’s not even funny.
Because it’s so hard for me to find things I truly enjoy reading, what sometimes happens is I end up reading blogs I hate. Sometimes I make fun of those blogs, usually with other people on the internet who are also making fun of them. It’s something I’ve done for years, since the glory days of LiveJournal, where people willingly joined communities where the members would harshly and maybe cruelly on occasion (but also hilariously) critique their writing.
To some extent, I enjoy a good trainwreck. For example, there’s a blogger I’ve been sort of following, from a snark perspective, for years. This blogger has thousands of fans and admirers, and has written books that have been published and purchased by actual people who have read them, as well as another book deal. Her writing is, without question, some of the most atrocious, offensive writing I’ve ever had the misfortune of reading in my life. But still she somehow continues writing and having fans and makes a (modest) living at it.
As an editor, a reader, and a person who enjoys writing and expression (when done well), this kind of thing fascinates the hell out of me. On the one hand, I want to understand how anybody could read this drivel and like it. On the other hand, I want to understand how it happens that a terrible writer who seems like a pretty dreadful person makes money writing and basically selling herself as a brand, while awesome bloggers who are putting out good, thoughtful, interesting posts (don’t worry, I’m not referring to myself, I promise) aren’t. I want to understand the intersection of quality content, self-promotion, and connections and why, more often than not, self-promotion and connections trump quality content. I want to understand the people who put forth bullshit and the people who reward bullshit. I want to understand why people in power tend to stay in power even when they suck and everybody still kisses their asses. I guess this is a long way of saying I want to understand human nature as expressed in the blogosphere.
The problem is that for a while now, what I’ll refer to as my nice, hippie brain has been at odds with my bitchy, editor brain. Let me be clear — I don’t think there’s anything wrong with responding critically (or even bitchily) to anything on the internet. If you put it out there, people are free to think and say whatever they want about it. But lately I’m just feeling like I don’t want to do it any more. Like, honestly? Although I’m fascinated by the success of the blogger mentioned above and I’m curious about what crazy shit she’s going to spew next, when I really think about it, the truth is that I don’t actually have a fuck to give about this sort of thing any more.
So I thought I’d try an experiment. For the month of February, I’m going to focus on the positive on the internet. I won’t read any blogs I don’t actually enjoy. I won’t read or contribute to any internet snark. Instead, I’ll do, well, something else. I don’t know what — I guess we’ll see. I don’t have any big, noble goals — I don’t think my mental energy is like a valuable piece of downtown real estate that must be put to its highest and best use or anything. And I’m not going to be all positive all the time or anything, because that’s always fake. I’m just not going to seek the negative.
I’ll report back to you on how this turns out. My hypothesis is, well, that one of two things will happen: (1) I’ll realize that I miss the snark, which is a harmless diversion that keeps me entertained; or (2) I’ll realize that I’m truly a hippie who is into other stuff now that I have more free time. Either way, it’ll be (marginally) interesting (to me).