The Word Janitor

I mentioned in my last post that I want to stick with this blog, simply because it’s important to me. The exact reasons why it’s important are long, varied, and honestly probably very boring to just about anyone out there but me. But on the off chance someone is interested, I’ll share one of these engrossing reasons.

Simple: I used to be a word janitor, and I figured it’s high time I created my own messes instead of cleaning up after others.

What’s a word janitor, you ask? You may know them as editors and proofreaders. That’s what I used to call them, too, when it was my dream to be an editor in the publishing industry. I just couldn’t wait to clean up all that literary gunk and make it beautiful for the adoring public.

As you can probably guess by my rather dry, not-amused tone, I consider my past self to have been a major idiot in this regard. Just like real janitors, there is no glory in being a word janitor. None at all.

I was excited at first, sure. I had a job (multiple jobs actually) in my field, and isn’t that the dream of every college student? To be fair, in this area I was pretty lucky, not going to lie. Plenty of people don’t get jobs in their fields and I AM thankful I found some related to my degree, so there is that.

But the sad truth is that I was forced to realize I simply don’t like my field. At all. In fact, I came to absolutely detest it. It wasn’t my coworkers or bosses or any of that; they were actually wonderful people, not going to lie. No complaints there at all.

It was, unfortunately, much deeper and more personal than that. See, my dream for many years was to be a writer. A novelist specifically, but a poet or blogger would be great as well. The thought of sharing my writing with the world was like a jolt of caffeine straight into the bloodstream (albeit much less deadly, I’m sure)–it got me out of bed and moving forward on days I really wanted to forget the outside world existed.

But, see, there is a tiny little problem here. Everyone knows being a writer isn’t practical, unless you happen to hit it big, right? Everyone knows most writers have a day job and write as a hobby or side gig, right? Of course, those last two statements are not hard truths by any stretch, but the younger, meeker version of myself believed it completely, and so she sought to find a career that was more practical instead. Editing fit the bill quite nicely; I could get my English degree and work in a related field, while writing on the side. A perfect combo!

It didn’t quite work out like that, though. When I was editing all day and doing my best to make someone’s work not look like it was written by a middle schooler who skipped out on their English classes, I had no desire to write in my spare time. I would sit down to write, and all I would see are errors, errors, gunk, slop, utter garbage to drag out. After spending hours a day being a word janitor for others, I simply couldn’t turn off that part of my brain when it came time to do my own writing. I’ve always been highly critical of myself and a perfectionist, and working as an editor enabled my inner critic like nothing else before this point. I was so focused on finding mistakes and taking out the trash that I no longer enjoyed writing. Everything I wrote became junk, in my eyes. Any criticism I would then receive from outside readers became downright crippling; already believing my writing to be trash, it was far too easy for me to swallow all their sharp words and let them cut me up inside. Such was the fall of my self-esteem.

And worse than that was the resentment. Because I lost my desire to write, I never did do any writing as a side gig or a hobby once I became an editor. Now, remember that writing had been my REAL dream, not editing. Yet I spent my time at work cleaning up the messes of other writers so they could pursue their dreams. It didn’t take long for me to realize I had shelved my own goals so other people could reach theirs, and that was a bitter cup of tea indeed.

Sometimes I would receive particularly bad drafts, filled with terrible run-ons, grammatical errors, and sentences that must have been conceived after a couple rounds of a drinking game, and I would just lose it. I don’t mean visibly; I always kept my cool and worked on. I’m talking internally here. The resentment would rear its head like a grouchy old beast and hiss, “Why do THEY get to be published authors and not me? They don’t even know how to string a sentence together! Why are THEY going to get all the credit, while my name won’t be on the finished product in any way? Why are THEY bringing home double or triple or ten times my pay when I’m spending more time on this then they do?” (That last one was particularly damaging; there were many times I spent more time editing a draft than the writer did creating it. Not fun at all).

And yes, I am aware that a good chunk of these writers (or doctors, depending on the industry; like I said, I had multiple jobs doing editing work) were actually quite talented and just had a rushed day, like we all do. My accusations certainly were not always fair; many times, they were warped and downright arrogant. But fair or not, those intense feelings of hate and poison that rushed through me were very much real, and they stemmed from the simple truth that I did not like the career I had chosen. I had gone from considering myself a writer’s trusty assistant to a word janitor, and that alone shows the downward spiral that went on in my mind. There are many wonderful editors out there, and many wonderful authors who just need a helping hand now and then, but I realized this was not the path for me. I was done being an editor.

Here I am now. I quit my last editing job a few months ago, with the initial intention of running a candle business. As you may have read in my last post, Destroyed Dreams, that didn’t go over so well and I’m quite happy to let that “dream” die alone. After distancing myself from editing and letting go of all that resentment, the blur that was covering my vision for so long has faded. I remember what I want to do, always wanted: To write and share my writing. This is what I should have pursued back then, but the past is over. It’s never too late to try again, though, so here I am, world!

And the best part? I only reread this post once after writing it, before hitting that terrifying “Publish” button up there. So long, inner critic and word janitor! I’m sure another couple look-overs would have served this piece well, but that’s just fine by me. It may be garbage, but this is my garbage, made by me and me alone. Nothing fills me with more joy than that.

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