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Editor's Notes #69, What are you aiming for?
March 31, 2009

If you aim at nothing,
you're going to hit it every time.

-- Anonymous

In this issue:

1. What are you aiming at?
2. Would you self-publish?
3. Tickled my funnybone

1. What are you aiming at?
Two influential adults in my life reiterated over and over and over that setting a goal was the only way to get a good result. I was reminded of that again last week as I watched the World's Figuring Skating Championships. People who set goals meet them.

Of course, people who don't set goals, those who truly aim at nothing, also hit their targets.

For years I wrote with no particular goal. I was good at writing. Loads of people told me I was, and I agreed with them without being even a little bit vain. I enjoyed writing. Next to reading, writing was my favorite activity. I had no idea that my love of writing was, in any sense, out of the ordinary. I didn't bother to ask myself what others thought or did about writing.

I wrote truckloads of letters -- hundreds every month at one point. I wrote journals, varying them from time to time to meet different needs in my life. I wrote reports at work. I played at writing a book, but really had no idea how to go about doing a good job of it, so gave it up. I wrote in my head and on paper. I played endlessly with words.

But I had no over-all goal in my writing.

Then I read a book that gave my writing an over-all goal. Peter Elbow created a picture in my mind of a writer in a dark alley saying, "Psst, wanna buy my novel?" He contrasted that with the writing most of us have to pay others to read, the kind of writing I had done in university. I wrote to get the job done, and the poor TA read to get paid by the university.

I decided that I wanted to be paid for my writing.

Of course that meant I had to plot out a course for getting to publication and along the way I learned, and continue to learn, a great deal about writing. But my goal of publication stayed uppermost in my mind.

That means I flog my writing when I can. I mold much of my writing to the market. I hone my craft.

I have two questions for you today:
A. What is your goal in writing?
B. How do you plan to meet your goal?


2. Would you self-publish?
Jason Dewintz of Greenboathouse Press owns his own presses and publishes "fine letterpressed & handbound editions." As you might imagine, he publishes chapbooks, small books of poetry, among other limited edition items.

He's good at what he does. The books he prints have won international design awards.

In a recent radio interview, Jason was asked if he publishes his own work. His answer? A big NO!

The reason? He values the editorial process.

Jason edits the work of others. He is a well-published writer as well as an award-winning designer. But he submits his work to the scrutiny of others because he values the input of other professionals.

Of course, you can have your cake and eat it, too. You can self-publish and have editorial input. It was self-publishing writers I wanted to work with when I began my editing career. I didn't see other editors taking self-publishers seriously.

If you want to self-publish, your work can still benefit from the hand of an editor who will tell you the truth. You can submit your writing for a sample edit at


3. Tickled my funnybone
“Local High School Dropouts Cut in Half”


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