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Four Years at the Mount

Senior Year

The importance of editing

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

(9/2014) Throughout the years Iíve held more than a few positions around the wonderful world of the Mount St. Maryís campus. Iíve been blessed with the chance to be a leader and role model among our student communities as a Resident Assistant. I was able to flex my oratorical skills as the master of ceremonies for last yearís SPARC festival, and last but certainly not least by any stretch of the imagination, Iíve been a writer for the Emmitsburg News-Journal. During these past few months, that role has been altered slightly and Iíve been fortunate to be able to move from working solely on my own article to helping other writers and the paper as a whole. It has certainly been an interesting path getting here, one that has taught me a great deal about what it takes to marry responsibility and creativity. While it is my normal modus operendi to weave everything together into a single story, I thought that in keeping with the precise nature of the job, weíd do a simple list of lessons learned.

1. What you put in is what you get out.

After receiving a draft of the paper during my first month as an editor, the first thing I did was isolate myself from every distraction, pull out my laptop, and get to work. After nine hours I was finally able to send the finished product off to my editors (and thus the grammatical cycle of life goes on, sans Lion King music). While my finished product was far from perfect, it let me learn a lot about how our paper goes about the arduous task of editing the collective works of a thriving town and university. Most importantly, I was able to take pride in the work that I had done and the process I had used to accomplish my task.

This lesson alone is worth a considerable amount more than several dozen of my paychecks combined. Taking pride in the work you do is often as rewarding, if not more so, than the exact work that you do. Itís that attitude that lets you transform the mistakes you make into valuable lessons and then translate those lessons into success.

2. Little strokes fell mighty oaks.

Speaking of the collective works of an entire town, have you ever taken a look at the Emmitsburg News-Journal? I mean really sat down and thought about the size font we use, the spacing between the lines of text, and the sheer number of pages. The truth is that the Emmitsburg News-Journal is an incredibly comprehensive newspaper, so much so that no one or two dedicated editors could do it all in the time that is required. Luckily for us, we have four dedicated editors and a surefire strategy. First, editors are split into two teams; next the paper is split into halves with each team member taking a section, switching halves once a revised version of the paper is received. The result is a fully realized grammatical clean sweep.

Although Iím positive you are all enjoying this scintillating discussion of publishing tactics, the truth is that this does have a pretty distinct lesson in the real world. In life we face some incredibly daunting tasks. No matter who you are, Iím sure you face some serious tasks. Whether itís balancing your job and the family of small children you have, or trying to strike a perfect dichotomy between life as a student and life as a normal person. Regardless of the job you have to do, or its size, almost anything in life can be broken up into smaller sections. These easy to complete segments donít feel like much (and in truth they might not be), but after a period of time they add up to form something significant.

3. Itís alright to get some air.

One of the most important things a professional athlete will tell you is the effect that fatigue has on their performance. You can have the most muscles and the best form, but without any sort of endurance youíll never last long enough to finish the race. Despite the fact that weíre not winning gold medalsóalthough I continue to lobby for professional typing to be put into the summer Olympicsóthe same can be said for editors. After a while our brains get tired. Our eyes start to strain a little bit and things like, "Is that movie title going to get italicized or put in quotations?" or, "Can I underline this?" or my favorite, "What if I just underline the entire paragraph?" start running through our heads. When moments like this arise, we take a much needed break to grab something eat, stretch our legs and talk to someone (or something) other than a page for a little bit. Then, once our appetites for food and human conversation are sated, we can come back to editing, confident with the knowledge that no, underlining an entire paragraph is not a good plan.

The same holds true for real life. No one mentions this, but itís easy to get tired. In a world dominated by machines and products marketed for our convenience, there is somehow less time to do everything. In this world, taking a breather can seem counterintuitive, but believe me when I say that sometimes what you need to keep working like a maniac is five minutes of free breathing time.

4. Enjoy the fruits of your labor.

At the end of the day, there is nothing quite like seeing your finished product go to press. One of the incredible parts of working in journalism is that once youíre finished and something has officially been completed, you actually get to see and share the physical result of your work with other people. The amazing thing is that you get to lug around the stacks of paper. To say that you should not be able to take a step back and truly appreciate what youíve made is to say that your work comes from nothing. Seriously folks, enjoy your work and take the time to appreciate the end result.

At the end of the day, the importance of editing is less about the actual work that is done on the page and more about the lessons that you can glean from it. Whether youíre writing or editing, working or relaxing, I hope you take the time to appreciate and learn from the tasks you perform every day. And most importantly, take some time for a good piece of writing. Iím Kyle Ott. Wonít you sit and read for a while?

Read other articles by Kyle Ott