It was seven years ago that we came to France and found this house we now live in. Seven years. Is that lucky? Or unlucky? Either way, it's a magic number.
I've been blogging every day, with very few exceptions, for two years now. Blogging is an aberration, you know. It is publishing, or quasi-publishing. It reminds me of the days when word processing and page design first became available to le commun des mortels back in the 1980s and 1990s. Anybody with a computer and a desktop publishing application could suddenly produce documents using many fonts and many font sizes, in italic or bold or underlined... and all of the above. A lot of pages that looked like ransom notes resulted.
Blogging is definitely publishing, though it is only digital. What am I saying? Only digital! What isn't, these days? Print publishing is in serious decline. But there are some elements missing from the new digital publishing modes. One element is editors. In no other type of publishing does an author write, format, and release for public consumption articles and thoughts and sentences and spellings that are not revised by even one other set of human eyes.
I was an editor for more than 20 years. I edited English and I edited French. I edited for audiences that went from ambassadors and politicians, government officials in the U.S. and elsewhere, to high school teachers, business executives, university professors, computer programmers, various magazine readers, and le commun des mortels of computer users. I'm not saying I always did a great job. But I believe I "added value" to the texts and documents I worked on. That's what editors do.
Now here I am without an editor myself — I who always firmly believed that writing and editing were two fundamentally different processes, both of which were necessary to the production of truly publishable material.
A good editor doesn't make a writer feel dumb for writing a defective sentence or not noticing a typo. Other readers are not so kind, because they don't understand the complexities of writing words, thoughts, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and articles — not to mention books. That's why editors are employed: to protect the writers from silly errors, to get the best out of them, to help them express what they have to say.
If you think writers just write and publishers just publish what they write, think again. Writing is nearly always a collaborative effort, especially writing for publication. It takes many brains, many pairs of eyes, a clear vision, and many revisions and corrections to get any writing ready for publication. It costs money.
Well, you get what you pay for. That's the thought that comes to mind when I think about blogs. The stuff I write is free. Not only do you get words, typos, misspellings, and silly errors — you get pictures too. And once in a while, you might get something interesting or entertaining.
Already, the emphasis in digital communications seems to have shifted from blogging to twittering or facebooking. I've tried them all, but not for long. Twittering and facebooking are not really publishing. That mode doesn't suit me. Blogging is publishing, or at least could or should be. Good, serious editing is the only thing missing.
Bloggers, like other writers, need editors who can stand back from the written work, assess it, and push it in the right directions. Who can edit out the silliness we are all prone to. Who can fix the typos, refine the sentences and paragraphs, and give the writer not only encouragement but a shove or a kick in the pants when needed. Who can ask the hard questions: Aren't you getting carried away here? Are you seriously expecting people to believe what you're saying? Have you thought this through? Don't you see the contradictions in your own writing and ideas? Have you lost your way? Your mind?
Maybe what I'm having is not the seven-year itch, but the sixty-year itch. Sixty years old, I mean. I just saw on the Washington Post web site that CBS is canceling its "As the World Turns" soap opera after a 54-year run. That makes my four-year run as a blogger seem pretty insignificant.
Some days I think I need a new hobby.