I was re-reading one of my favorite biographies last week, marveling at the way someone could craft a compelling story from a real person’s life, and I got the urge to learn more about how books are put together. You’d think I’d know this already — years ago I completed a very intense week-long book editing seminar at Simon Fraser University that introduced me to the ins and outs of the book world. But that was 2005, which feels like eons ago, and both the publishing world and my interests have changed since then. So I looked around a bit and found that SFU is offering a two-day workshop on substantive editing this summer. It was perfect, so I signed up. When I mentioned this to a friend, she said it was too bad that I wasn’t taking something on content development for websites, cause those skills are in big demand — and as she was talking, I felt the old self-doubt creeping back into my head. Why was I taking a class in something that realistically held no career possibilities for me? Shouldn’t I focus on something a bit more marketable?
It was thoughts like that that led me to journalism school in the first place. I never wanted to be a journalist; I didn’t have the slightest interest in news, and I love structure and routine, two things that don’t exist in a reporter’s life. In high school my interest was writing, but whenever I said that to an adult who was asking what I wanted to be, they translated it as, “Journalism, eh?” I briefly flirted with the idea of pursuing creative writing in university, but the adults in my life persuaded me that there was no money in it (they were right, of course), so journalism it was. I detested coming up with story ideas, chasing down sources who didn’t want to talk to me, and coming up with 500-word stories when most people would never read beyond the first paragraph…but I did eventually find my niche in editing.
So I’m trying to stay focused on the fact that I’m taking this workshop because I want to learn, not because I want to enrich my career possibilities. (And frankly, two days away from the kids has its own appeal.) Chris understands that I want this and is encouraging me to go, but I don’t think he’ll ever understand what it’s like to love something that has little marketable value. A few of the computer guys he works with have other hobbies: golf, poker, playing a musical instrument, whatever. He does not. Ever since he was a kid, he’s focused on nothing but technology. In high school it was important to me to do well in every subject, so I did, whereas he aced his computer classes and flunked English. He got so bored in university that he didn’t even finish his degree. So he only has one interest — which happens to be in great demand. It’s a charmed life.
Here’s to personal development!