Why outsiders make good editors and why desserts and presentations don’t mix
One evening last month I missed a call from Currie’s general manager, Susan McNair, asking if I would go to Manila in three days’ time for what was, essentially, emergency editing.
I was struck by two separate emotions when I listened to Susan’s message on my voicemail. The first was horror: my passport had expired. The other was excitement mixed with puzzlement that editing would ever be considered an emergency service.
The first emotion – horror – was quickly replaced with another – mild anxiety – as I made an appointment for fast-track passport processing the following morning. Apparently two business days is all you need to get your passport renewed. Yet, when you only have two and a half business days before you leave, room for error is limited.
Dealing with the second emotion was more of a ‘slow burn’. The clients and I spent two, full work-days at the University of the Philippines (shiny new blank passport having arrived) thrashing out how the project would work. Or at least, they thrashed. I listened. At the end of the first day, we divided up writing tasks and got to it.
The next morning, while the nitty gritty discussions continued, I set to working my editing magic on what we had created. No pressure, simply a document that would explain clearly how this part of a five-year international marine research program would work.
My puzzlement receded in direct proportion to the number of pages edited. Having someone come in from outside, unburdened with background knowledge and immediate concerns, particularly relating to the day-to-day running of the program, gradually made sense.
As a writer, editor and story-teller I could see what content needed to be included, how it needed to be structured and what was superfluous to our immediate needs.
Sustained by a hearty lunch and a take-away halo halo*, I presented the revised document to our group that second afternoon. While tweaking still remained, on the whole the feedback was very positive. The room, in fact, was filled with palpable relief.
I arrived home two days later buoyed by the progress we had made and the thought that I did, perhaps, have skills that justified last-minute, whirlwind international visits to exotic locations.**
Another week having passed, I’ve moved now to the hopeful stage and am considering putting a little note on my email signature. Have skills and passport, will travel. Please.
* Warning: halo halo is not an ideal snack in a professional forum – it melts when you are speaking and its delicious, gloopy consistency forces you to take large mouthfuls.
** Disclaimer: The above photo is more aspirational than actual. In fact, my editing experiences took place within four walls. Perhaps something to try for next time, however.