More on What I Want

This post, take 97. (Seriously, I’ve been trying to write this, and three other posts, for a week now. And it ended up being super long and even more boring, so please feel free to skip it, and get on with what could still be a perfectly decent Tuesday.)

I wrote that What I Want post on Thursday night, while I was pumping. It was late, later than I had intended, and I got tired. I ended up falling asleep three times while I was writing it. When Mi.Vida got home from an event he scolded me for staying up so late and I sheepishly finished the post up and went to bed. It was for the best, it was getting late, and the post was getting long, and I was never going to be able to write all I had wanted to write.

But I did want to process a couple of specific situations that spurred me to write about this topic, to see if maybe I might figure some things out in the putting of words down on “paper.” That is what I’m trying to do today.

I’ve mentioned here before that I do some volunteer copyediting for the magazine that a very large mother’s group puts out in San Francisco. It’s a 40 page, color publication–very professionally put together, despite the fact that no one on the 30+ person staff gets paid a penny for their contribution. We have monthly meetings where we discuss the themes of up coming issues, brainstorm article ideas and determine writing (and photography) assignments. The copy editors have the first twelve days of the month to do first- and second-edits on the articles they have chosen to work with. Then two people have to proofread the entire magazine after the designers have put it together.

The first two weeks of the month are definitely a bit stressful, knowing that there are articles I should be working on. First edits really should be finished in the first week so they can get to second editors in time for the authors to check them over before the final deadline. We rely a lot on each other and I feel really guilty when I know someone is waiting on my second edits, or I know I’m not giving someone much time to do second edits on my pieces.

I also don’t think I’ve very good at copyediting. I’ve never had any formal training in it, and while I’m a stickler about certain common grammar errors, there are other rules I’m not familiar with at all. I’m a horrible speller and never know if a compound words should be separated, hyphenated or put together. I also struggle with knowing when it’s appropriate to make changes; sometimes I can’t tell if I word choice or word order is actually creating confusion, or I would just rather write it another way. Copyediting it actually really hard, and my lack of self-confidence makes it difficult work for me. At the same time I appreciate doing anything associated with writing, even the less glamorous toiling of a copy editor.

The best thing about working at the magazine is that I get to write articles. I’ve probably had over a dozen pieces printed and half of them have been features. I even wrote a feature about secondary infertility not long ago. It really is awesome to see my words in print and to know that thousands of women will read them (our distribution list is over 5,000 households strong). Readers have contacted me because of my writing and I even befriended a woman who saw (in my bio) that I live in her neighborhood.

The magazine requires a significant time commitment, and right now I don’t have a ton of time. Every month I consider telling them it’s my last. A lot of the women who were spearheading the effort when I started (almost three years ago, where does time go?!) recently retired. I like the women who are still working there, and I feel the magazine is in good hands, I’m just not sure I want to continue being a part of it.

Trying to determine whether or not I should stay has been a big part of my What Do I Want conversation with myself. Every month I go over why I might want to stay at the magazine, and every month I’m left a bumbling mess of I’m-not-sure-what-to-do-somebody-help!

What it basically boils down to is identifying why I might want to stay at the magazine and then determining whether I think the magazine can actually provide me with those things. Finally, I have to decide if those things are worth the time commitment required.

And this is where it gets muddled in my mind. I suppose I stay on the magazine for three reasons: (1) I would love to meet a good friend on its staff; It doesn’t seem too far fetched to hope that I might meet a woman I could be friends doing something that I love with other women who also love it. (2) I appreciate the opportunities to write for a larger audience, and under my own name; getting assignments that are sometimes outside my comfort zone force me to grow as a writer. I also believe that copyediting makes me a better writer, even if I don’t think I’m very good at it. (3) Finally I like that I’m doing something non-teaching related that I could put on my resume, if I ever decided that I really needed to leave teaching lest I lose my mind.

It took me a long time to compose that simple list. It was really hard for me to figure out what I wanted from this commitment. And I suppose it will take even longer for me to determine if the time commitment is worth what I believe it can give me.

At this point, almost three years into my commitment to the magazine, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to meet a good friend amongst its staff. While I’ve met many women that I like and respect, there hasn’t been one that I’ve felt I genuinely connect with (I’m beginning to think I’m really hard to connect with, that I come off as harsh and standoffish and that is why I have such a hard time making friends. I think people either really like me, or they aren’t interested in being around me at all). I’ve definitely tried to spark a friendship with a few women but none have seemed overtly interested (and a few have seemed overtly NOT interested–see parenthetical ruminations above). But new women are “hired” frequently, so I guess I’m stilling holding out hope that I might meet, “the one.” (Ha! Sometimes I think making a good friend is as hard to manage as finding the love of your life–seriously!)

As far as writing, I really do like writing for the magazine and I know I could get more assignments if I just spoke up and asked for them (I don’t because the time commitment, on top of copyediting, can be overwhelming; I only ask to write if I feel really passionate about the topic or if they request I write something specifically.) There is also a part of me that appreciates the copyediting and chooses to see it as a challenge and a way to hone my skills.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to use this experience on a resume, but I suppose it doesn’t hurt to have it in my back pocket. I haven’t determined whether it’s worth it to keep copyediting on the off chance I’ll want the experience some day.

So in the end, I’m not sure what to do. I don’t really think I’ll make a new friend on the staff, but I do like writing articles (and sometimes even copyediting), and I’m not sure if resume builder will help me some day. So the reasons I might stay are (1) most probably not valid, (2) mostly valid and (3) of uncertain validity. Do you see why I’m not sure what to do?

This whole situation is compounded by the fact that I just have so little time. Every night I want to do a half dozen things and I have time for one, maybe two if I sacrifice 30 minutes of sleep. When time is so precious, I want to make sure I’m spending it in the ways I want. And it’s hard to know what those ways are, when I’m not sure what the future holds. I’d hate to quit the magazine, and then want to make a major change in my life one day, only to realize that more years of publishing experience would have helped me.

I’m sorry to babble on incoherently about all this for so long. I’m sure it’s been a total bore. I just feel like this situation is representative of my What Do I Want? question as a whole. I would ask you all what I think I should do, but I know it’s hard to give advice in these kinds of situation. Still, if you have any words of wisdom, or can share a similar experience of your own, I’d be much obliged.

2 responses

  1. Sometimes doing something that’s different from your regular life, even if it makes you busier, can make you feel more sane and balanced as a person. I used to volunteer on a board and I LOVED it! Then I missed too many meetings and they downgraded my commitment. Even then, I miss a lot of meetings. But it makes me sad and I really wish I could still do it, just to feel like I get out of the daily routine sometimes. So I’d vote for staying on the magazine if you can.

  2. When I read your “what I want” post the other day, I kept thinking- I bet what she really wants is good friends. I would say for me, my friends are a huge contributor to my overall happiness. Dang, I wish we lived in the same city. Could you stay at the magazine as just a feature writer- like maybe every other month? Then you’d be doing what you really love to do without the stress of the added copyrighting responsibility.

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