Tag Archive: editing


Never one to disappoint, Coffee Wednesday was chock full o’ nuts, mainly because both my wife and I were there. The gathering was full of conversation. And good ideas. And cellos. Did I mention cellos?

If cellos play in the forest at Coffee Wednesdays, does anyone hear them? You bet they do.

The fifth grade cello students delighted us with a few selections from their repertoire. It went nothing like this, but was at least as delightful, and begat at least as many smiles. The four or so songs included a piece entitled “Babylon” and some traditional music as well. It was such a treat. And it’s so refreshing to hear live music, especially when you’re not surrounded by thousands of screaming fans. I can’t wait for next week’s 4th grade cello performance.

While Carmen spoke with a new acquaintance, Ashley and I talked about writing for the school and otherwise. She brought up a fantastic point about writing: it’s an invitation to experience something. What a good way to put it! And so true; when you put words down on a page — paper or electronic — you’re conveying a thought, striving to impart something you’ve experienced to someone else who hasn’t.

That isn’t an easy task. Not with three words. Not with a thousand. No matter if you’re trying to convey a vacation or a vacuum cleaner. I guess that’s one reason that writing is such an important (if overlooked) art. As a friend pointed out this morning, editing is, too, but that’s another ball of yarn. (Thanks, Jen!)

As another pal pointed out a loooong time ago, “Good writing means never having to say, ‘Well, I guess you had to be there.'” (Thanks, Gary!) Writing — quality writing — is an invitation to an experience, but it’s also a conveyance, a vehicle that takes the reader there.

If you haven’t made it here, to Coffee Wednesdays, consider this an invitation. And if you can’t make it, I hope this Heavy Mental weekly feature gets you at least halfway.

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I’ve attempted several Regular Features on Heavy Mental, but without much success. Not unlike Italian forms of government since WWII. I’ve tried read-alongs. I’ve tried retrospectives.

But this one is different: this go-round, I’m making  the time for it, once a week. I’ll be scribbling some reflections and ideas engendered from Coffee Wednesdays at the Waldorf School of Atlanta. It’s Wednesday, and I’ve had my coffee. So let’s get started.

Getting mugged at WSA. You're doing it right.

After dropping the young lad at school, I stayed, joining in the fun, bread, and beverages at Coffee Wednesdays. I got my java and homemade bread fix, had some insightful convos (Thanks, Nancy!), and made a new connection for my freelance writing business. The last one was a complete surprise — either a complete coincidence or a divinely coordinated arrangement.

I’ll bank on the latter.

You're doing it wrong.

I stayed to the end of the event and helped to carry a tray of coffee mugs (no Styrofoam(TM) found here!) up to the kitchen, taking the opportunity to talk with a fellow parent. It just turns out that her relative is a contract writer for a local agency and would be glad to pass on my 411 to the relative. Sweet — that’s organic networking at its finest.

To top off a great morning, on my way to the parking lot, I found myself behind Ms. Luba’s kindergarten class as they were heading back from their morning walk.

Ah, childhood: like each day, it’s so full of promise.

The Path

For darn near a year now, I’ve carried around a poem by Antonio Machado. Scribbled by a dear friend who was inspired to share it for some reason or another, it goes like this:

Is this the high road? The low road? I dunno. All I know is I'm on it.

Caminante, no hay camino.
El camino se hace al andar.

Forgive the rough translation, but the English is “On the journey, there is no path. The path is made by going.”

Well, I’m going. And I’m making the path as I do. Having recently found a fork in the road, I took it. I’m freelancing once again as a writer and editor. It’s a path I walked once before, from 2007-09. I gained some fantastic experience and broadened my professional — and personal — acquaintances. But in the end, due to the economy and the offer of a steady gig, I came to the realization that freelancing wasn’t for me.

Or was it?

Now that I’m going along that path again, I’m recognizing that there are traces of this path that have run parallel to my trajectory for quite some time. The path is clearer, more sturdy, devoid of the many obstacles that littered the way years ago.

And that’s encouraging. It’s as if this self-directed course was meant for me to follow, even while I was making headway along another route. I know one thing: I love it.

I consider myself in the fortunate minority of people who can pursue their passion and earn a living at it. Having experienced the freelancing life before, I feel I’m better equipped to make things happen. And it looks like things are happening already. If I can continue to meet with success, sweet.

The poem’s now committed to memory. And I can’t help but think that it’ll stay with me as I seek to find my way.

El camino no es suave.

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 17 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 68 posts. There were 41 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 6mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 28th with 86 views. The most popular post that day was Thinking of Freelancing? Think about this….

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were freelancefolder.com, facebook.com, postconsumers.com, linkedin.com, and lmodules.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for halo-halo, grillz, halo halo, halohalo, and filipino flag.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Thinking of Freelancing? Think about this… May 2009

2

Happy (Philippine) Independence Day! June 2009

3

Young Georgia Authors’ Writing Competition & Pirsig’s Quality March 2009
5 comments

4

Advent Spiral December 2009
3 comments

5

With or at me, just laugh April 2010
3 comments

Meeting my words

“We were taught how the pioneers went into the west. They opened their eyes and made up what things could be.”

Red means go

I suppose there’s a reason those words — courtesy of a W+K ad — hit my world this morning.  If you know what’s up in my life and the Hambrick Plan, you know that those words have special meaning.  And if you don’t, well, they apply to you and your plans more than you know.

The Short Version? Meet your plans; don’t wait for them to find you.  The Long Version follows.

A dialogue before work this morning wound its way around the spindle of writing — copywriting specifically.  I’ve managed to work in some copywriting in my present, decidedly non-copywriting position to some acclaim.  I shared that in the convo, saying that, “Sure, some point in the future, I’ll have more writing in a more front-and-center position job-wise.”

After arriving at work, my old agent from my freelancing days approached me about revisiting some evening/weekend proofreading for the ad agency JWT.  I used to proof for the agency before my current gig.  JWT is the place that basically introduced me to the possibility of copywriting for a living, thanks in large part to the advice and encouragement of the guy who’s behind this and this, and the guy who said something nice about my work  here.

Brilliant copywriting

I then chat with a friend who recently went from one copywriting contract to a perm gig, still with copywriter scribbled on her shingle at the new digs.  Whereas I, as an editor, was pining for the fjords of copywriting, she, as a copywriter, was already enjoying the view therefrom (is that a word?).  Ironically, before copywriting, she was an editor.  Hmm.  When she said that I should do what I’m drawn to, I responded, “I’m drawn to paying the bills.”

But then there, in that little quip, hid the truth: I’m drawn to make things happen with words.  I was making a joke, but it came naturally, without effort. And it made me smile.

And it encourages me to work on writing more.

From the Gregg Reference Manual, ninth edition:

“Rules merely represent an attempt to impose some order and consistency on a language that cheerfully persists in disorder and inconsistency.”

Indeed.

I suppose that – as editors – our lot in life is to struggle with words, not unlike trying to ride a Brahma bull.  But I think that it’s a good struggle.  See, I’ve found that editing is how we Walk the Line (with a nod to Mr. Cash).  We balance the exacting precision of proofing with the free-range roaming that is writing.

Off to do some editing ...

Consistency does help the reader, but there’s something else: it helps us.  From a business perspective, consistency is vital.  Follow me here.

Given that all else was equal, would you purchase a product from a business that produces typo-ridden marketing or would your coin go to the business that offers consistent, crisp material?

11 out of 10 Dereks would choose the error-free vendor.

Why?  Well, it comes down to the unwritten message: if a business doesn’t care enough to offer a consistent, clean message, where else are they lacking?  How do I know their product is not similarly problem-ridden?  Will the coffee pot break after a month?  Will my car repairs fail me when my family is driving at night?  Will my pants split if I take two stairs at a time?  It’s a matter of trust.

For the sake of the underlying message of trust, we need consistency.  This is not an absolute, but it helps your brand.  Such is the power of words.

Yay, words.

(Spell)Check Your Head

With a nod to those three fine fellas from the five boroughs, I posted the following question on a company Facebook-type site:

“I’m wondering what importance we place on writing well, regardless of your position: Do you think about it or just write? Use spellcheck or shoot from the hip? What’s your approach to communication?”

I asked these questions because I do care about what I write – and it’s my job to care about what others write. Receiving two responses … wait, make that three (one more while I’m writing this) within two hours of posting, I was pleasantly surprised to find others who share a similar concern for the written word. One responder brought up the unfortunate trend of instant messaging and text messages contributing to “lackluster writing.” I couldn’t agree more. I mean, I’m the kind of guy who takes the time to punctuate text messages correctly.

The above posting continued: “However, it’s up to us to maintain quality.” And there it was: Quality.

This word hit me for several reasons:

  • It’s an adequate word choice for our collective responsibility.
  • Like the change of scenery and entering a new industry, one intangible that endeared my then-prospective employer to me was our tagline: “Quality In Everything We Do.” The word quality is of interest to me since ensuring quality in writing is the locus of my work.
  • The word – like the sentence that contains it – applies to so much more than writing. But I’ve already addressed that in an earlier post.

I suppose that quality in terms of writing was what drove me to that posting earlier today. Why? I write, edit, and proofread for a living, so I see the good, the bad, and the are-you-missing-keys-on-your-keyboard?!? At times, I’m encouraged by the quality of that which I edit and the text messages I read; other times, I read to my chagrin; still other times, I become nauseous.

Perhaps, after retiring, I could open up Derek Hambrick’s Institute for People Who Can’t Write Good or maybe sponsor a chain of Grammar, Spelling, & Syntax Shelters for Editors.

Until then, I seek to elevate writing’s quality. And I’m glad that others still care about it, too.

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