I spent today the way I spent most of November through January: editing a dissertation. I needed to add a non-breaking space between two characters, and as I pressed shift+ctrl+space, I thought about an old coworker, Mike, who taught me that particular trick in Word.
Mike reminded me of my original trainer at the engineering firm that first hired 21-year-old me. The man who trained me to replace him taught me about track changes, about comments, about turning on formatting and section breaks and aspects of Word I didn’t know I didn’t know about.
Every time I delete an unnecessary “that”—whether from my writing or others’—I think about a college professor who has a vendetta against that word. Her comments on what I thought were well-written essays stick with me when I edit, too. Comments about how I had the habit of assuming a conclusion was obvious rather than stating it. Comments I now pass on to my clients. She taught me that any italics in a quote need to have “emphasis added” or “emphasis in original” in the note.
I am the editor I am because of the people who once edited me.
My writing is full of people who came before me, too. The seventh-grade Language Arts teacher who excused me from the 5-page limit for a story. Numerous friends with whom I’d cowritten: a long series of mostly unwritten stories about two puppies in fifth grade. A story written to densely pack inside jokes in seventh grade. Songs—some earnest, some, in our opinion, hilarious—written over years with groups of friends.
I think about keeptheotherone, the first Fanfiction user to leave me a review on the first story I’d posted to the public as an adult, and the myriad of friends I made in the Harry Potter fanfic world while teaching myself how to write. Their encouragement kept me writing and their talent gave—and still gives—me something to aspire to.
Whenever I think about how to end my chapters, I ask myself how Samantha Joyce, an excellent author I’m privileged to call my friend, would end it. When I think about sentences, it’s John Green I hope to emulate, while Susan Dennard’s handle of wants, needs, and desires has informed my once-rambling, pointless stories. K.M. Weiland’s words sit with me whenever I’m developing a theme, or trying to outline my next story.
Everything I write is me. I cannot help but spill into the story with every keystroke. Everything I write is also you, because you helped me get there.