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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

An Editorial Buffoon

Today is Saturday, which means it’s Sketch Class Day over at ImprovBoston. Only there was no sketch class today. Something about a “Thanksgiving weekend” gumming up the works.

(Gentle aside / self-plug: you can see my thoughts on Turkey Day over at this time around.

I’m pretty sure you’ll never look at pressure washers — or Grandma’s gravy boat — the same way again.)

Now, I don’t know how long a tryptophan-induced food coma is supposed to last. But I was back on my feet today, and ready to cobble something together for class. But no. Class was canceled for the holiday — so no sketch today.

(What’s stopping me from writing one anyway, you ask? Well, nothing… except lack of a deadline, duh. Who actually accomplishes anything without a scary timer ticking ominously down to zero?

Librarians and UPS drivers, that’s who. Though what the UPS weenies “accomplish” is usually just pissing me off.)

At any rate — no deadline, no writing. As it has always been, and always shall be. Who am I to buck a system that’s been in place for six thousand years, when ancient Mesopotamians said things like, ‘Eh, I could get that TPS report to you today. But I think I’ll wait until we actually invent written language in a few hundred years. Better.

Instead, I tackled the other part of our assignment for class. I gave writing’s little brother — or snotty big sister, depending on how you look at it — a whirl: editing. And after half an hour of it, I can say with no small amount of conviction:

Writing’s hard. But editing blows.

Not editing my own stuff, mind you. I edit my own stuff all the time.

“We’ve all made suggestions that have gotten “the face” — that involuntary flash of scrunchy-nosed puzzled repulsion that’s quickly replaced with a kind pat-on-the-head smile and a dutiful jotting-down of whatever outlandish bunch of crack-addled bull hokum was just spouted.”

(Well, not all the time. Clearly.)

Here’s the thing. I have no problem believing I wrote a steaming pile of disjointed moose snot, and that improvements — many, many improvements — are in order. That’s easy. A little self-doubt and fourteen years of English teachers laughing and pointing at my essays — and not in the good way — will land a guy there.

This, though, was different. This was editing someone else’s work. The horror.

On the good side, I was only supposed to ‘make suggestions’ on a script we read in class last time. But we do that in class already — after a readthrough, we all brainstorm about how the script might be tweaked or massaged a bit.

I watch peoples’ faces as we do this, and I can see the confused, bitter — but still polite — anguish that it causes. I might make a suggestion, for instance, and the skit author will try to hide looking pained and disgusted and say something like:

Well, yes, I suppose I could write a funny elephant riding a unicycle into my courtroom sketch. Sure. I don’t know why I never thought of that. Uh… thanks?

It’s not just me. (This time. I swear.) We’ve all made suggestions that have gotten “the face” — that involuntary flash of scrunchy-nosed puzzled repulsion that’s quickly replaced with a kind pat-on-the-head smile and a dutiful jotting-down of whatever outlandish bunch of crack-addled bull hokum was just spouted.

(Okay, so it’s mostly me. Clearly.)

So now I was asked to make suggestions — just like in class, but in print. Written down in an email, where the author could go back repeatedly and re-read, making “the face” over and over and over again, convulsing in a twisted heap of sweaty incredulity.

I don’t want to do that to a person. Who would want to do that to a person? That’s a terrible thing to do to a person. Especially one who’s presumably still gorged on turkey and cranberries, and in no condition to handle the sweeping waves of nausea my ‘notes’ are likely to induce.

So I kept it short. A quick thought here, a possible suggestion — but only if you want to, and that’s the direction you were going, and anyway, what do I know — there, and I sent it off. Just enough to complete the assignment, but with as little nonsense and spewing as possible.

That was yesterday evening. This morning, I got an email back from the very nice and funny lady who’d written the skit, and she thanked me for the note and the ideas and reminded me that we didn’t have class today, so we’d meet back up in a week to see what comes next.

Which was very nice, considering that what she really wanted to write was something along the lines of:

I am NOT putting a goddamned elephant on the witness stand. FORGET IT with the elephant, already. Jackass.

Still, she made “the face”. She must have. I just hope she kept her stuffing and gravy down afterward. Otherwise, that next sketch class could get just a mite awkward. And nobody wants that.

Least of all, the elephant.

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