The Bitch Laments


Sometimes you just hate yourself and there’s no escape.
You do something that you know how to do but you’re distracted. You’re sick you go to the doctor get the official diagnosis the official antibiotics but still a piece of writing is due. You’re not exactly sure when. You turn it in late. You don’t know this editor and he doesn’t know you and it was a chase, and not a merry one, to even find out if he wanted you to write this. And the ifs start piling up—if he had gotten back to you even a week after you first contacted him, you would have had maybe three times as much time to work on it. If you hadn’t gotten sick. You didn’t have fever, so you can’t say you couldn’t pull yourself out of bed. You didn’t have that fever headache nightmare feeling that’s such a relief to lose when your temperature falls. Then you leave town to see someone who is sick, and you are worried and hysterical and it is partly because you didn’t have enough sleep, and you’re hoarse and is that from coffee in the morning or something as common and coarse-sounding as post-nasal drip? If so then what’s the good of those two nasal sprays, isn’t that what they’re supposed to cure. You have too much coffee and not enough sleep and the person you came to see is worried, upset, very upset and frightened and you try to be reassuring you try to acknowledge the fear the apprehension and to hold back your hysteria. And before and in between all this you get the piece of writing back and it’s in Track Changes, which you hate. Your eyes can’t focus on something that’s there but you’re supposed to ignore, if you’re supposed to ignore it, why is It still there, in some stupid color that isn’t even a real color, like cyan. When did the color spectrum suddenly produce cyan? What’s next, what other half-poison word is sniffing around on the horizon? Merc? Arsen? What poison suits you today? All poisons suit you today, you would snuff yourself out if you were the self-snuffing-out kind. The piece comes back with 71 or 98 comments in those balloons, and there are paragraphs in all kind of colors and when you print out only the black font shows up. All the colors become white, like secret script you wrote in lemon juice when you were little, which become visible when you hold the paper over and candle and don’t set everything afire.

There are many questions and many comments and there are the same comments over and over on the right margin. And you can’t make changes in the piece itself, you don’t know how it’s done, so you make the changes inside the little comment balloons, as answers then at some point you realize you can write just on the piece itself. It turns out you are writing in a shade of maroon or brown-pink and half the time it’s stricken out and it’s tedious and exacting to get rid of the line-thrus. Then you end up rewriting what’s in sentences already because they have the line straight through them. And the comments, oh the comments in the little balloons are, This is strange. And: non sequitur. And where are we? And, This is very strange. No it’s not strange. And you know you can be sloppy you are sloppy right now and there are pages and pages of interviews you much go over in order to double-check, you have the pages in file folders you brought on your trip. You send the whole thing back and you don’t take out the comments that are really changes and substitutions though they appear in the little comment balloons on the side, you figure in the interest of time, you must send it back. Then there’s the phone call from the person you never met who says, I wrote 98 comments and you didn’t make changes and you say like what, like what didn’t I change? And he says, like this, and you say, oh yes, I did make changes this is what I said, only I wrote it in the little balloon because I couldn’t write it exactly onto the piece. And he tells you you can write it exactly on the piece, and you say I know now I got it to work but because there was not much time left I didn’t go through it again and move the comments from the word balloons onto the piece itself. And he says you write it right on the piece itself and you say I know I got it to work but not till part-way through it. He spent all this time, I spent all this time he says writing comments in the little balloons and you didn’t make changes. Then you kind of yell for a few sentences because you are out of town and trying to provide succor for the sick and you say I’m not trying to fuck with you and I didn’t make up that I had bronchitis last week and I am away this week, it sounds like what a person could make up but I didn’t. He is miffed, his ego is bruised it is battered, he spent all this time!! on the comments and you didn’t make changes on the piece itself. Which you can do—right on the piece. I know you said again again again but it didn’t always work and he said all you do is and you say again And you say you created error in some of your edits and you say I like to get edits back from editors I like to find ways to improve but you are sure he thinks you are lying. He says did you open it in Word? You did but the first time you opened it in Word it had a whole margin of the same same comments, a zoo of comments. You say to make it simple I can just cut it to 800 or 1,000 words and it can be clean and neat and he says no there are some good things and I spent time on the comments I spent time writing the edits but the truth is he spent too much time, to write comments in the little balloons is inefficient you hate Track Changes you just write comments in caps. Or by hand and then scan and send. Time is running out you are waiting for the valet to return with your rental car and you have to stop at whole foods for provisions for the ill. He says it’s up to you to do what you want with it and he is about to throw up his hands he is losing hope is that what he said? He is losing hope in the piece. You have lost hope in yourself. You feel as if you are 16 and have never been paid for your writing, you didn’t feel this bad when you were just starting out with this self-same publication with a gruff editor back in the days when you would take your file folders in a box to the office and go over your story together. And the old editor said, What is this about the Continental Congress? And he was right, that’s not what you meant.
                                 [I make big money on royalties. This is from my Cancer Bitch book.]

Why do you try to do journalism after all and what other way is there to make money from writing, and besides it’s less money way less money than it used to be. Fie fie on you Craigslist who eviscerated classified ad sections around the world the entire world or at least the Earth. Writing book reviews makes you nervous, even more so than journalism and you are thinking of getting back to writing book reviews and you have a personal essay with another editor who will never ever get back to you he is fighting a war of attrition he is hoping for your attrition. That you will fall away like an outer leaf and outer sepal. Because you were hoping to make some money and so your wrote an essay that seemed mainstream to you and he this other editor is afraid of it, what is it, is it standup are the little segments too surprising for his gentle reader. Despair this is. And go back to writing for nothing being published in what used to be called the little magazines, you publish in them for nothing and you make no money from the books you write but after you write them there are universities that pay you a thousand dollars and travel expenses so that you will talk about this writing that makes no money to students paying thousands. How can you sustain. How can anyone. How can you be so fat if you’ve lost five pounds. How much did that breast weigh anyway? Shylock’s pound of flesh. Like death and more death. Mortification. Mortify and mortified.
*
The pieces I wrote, for the Progressive online and Chicago Reader online. 

4 comments:

Susan M. said...

Wow, Sandi. I thought you had stopped posting on this blog, so I haven't stopped by for a while, and now this. Oh, I know this lament well, but you have your own way of spinning it out--pouring it out. What a voice. What a great, interesting voice.

Cancer Bitch said...

Thanks, Susan. I stopped but I needed an outlet. I will be writing more as 5776 continues.
Happy new year.

pamela mckuen said...

I laughed about your first experiences with Track Changes, which mirrored mine. That editor never called me back, although I did finally get the hang of it when I had to for a different project. But since then, no other editors have used it. Thankfully.

Cancer Bitch said...

It is the invention of the Devil. It is hard for me to read both the changes and the original at the same time--sortof like looking at the amount of money on a bank note while holding it up to the light to see the water mark.