You can check out the North by Northwestern magazine online today.
The North by Northwestern magazine, of which I am the managing editor, went to press at 8 a.m. on Monday morning, after 22.5 straight hours of working on it. My staff and I began planning and working on it in early June. At 10 a.m. on Monday, I was reading an essay assigned for my creative nonfiction class, which I had vowed to attend despite my mental incapacity. Latte in hand, I would periodically suddenly find myself coming out of a dream, editing orphaned words in David Foster Wallace’s prose, seeing NBN logos and lockups swimming before my eyes. When I went to sleep, finally, I dreamed still of editing, always editing, make every word perfect, every colon semicolon comma.
By next Friday, my work will be done, another managing editor will have been chosen, and I can move on with my life.
I didn’t want this job. I was afraid of the responsibility, afraid that I would ruin something that has evolved to be a truly great publication created entirely by an unpaid staff during nights and weekends and odd moments of free time. There were multiple times over the course of this quarter that I thought that I would vomit from sheer stress, or at least cry. Though we met three times a week, there were only a few select times that I walked out of the building saying “yes, I think we’re going to make a magazine.” It still won’t be real to me until I can hold it in my grubby little hands. I may not even open it, for fear that I’ll discover one of the inevitable mistakes and know that I could have done better. Though probably no one else sees it that way, every mistake is in a small way failing the entire organization, which funds the absurdly expensive printing process, which expects perfection from a product that’s been shaped over the course of months rather than nights.
In the end, I don’t regret it. Not because I can stick it on my resume and send a hard copy to my entire family, but because I think it pushed and pulled me until I became better. A better writer, editor, person. It tested me in ways I would never have wanted to test myself. I’d never pulled an all-nighter before.
More importantly, there’s a responsibility I hadn’t been able to understand before in being the person that has the last say. I thought I just didn’t have the answers, but when it comes down to it, no one has all the answers. Someone just has to step up and make a decision. I formed opinions on things I didn’t realized I felt strongly about. And yeah, sometimes I just felt excited to be in control of this collection of stories and art that we were desperately pushing to the finish line. I realized that there were so many steps in the process I had never seen before, that somehow just appeared when I was editing — art direction, photo shoots, illustrating late into the night, getting a cover, features editing, last minute copy, negotiating with printers. I have a much greater appreciation for the editors I worked under, who dealt with all the pressure and stress and small bullshit but never let on.
Too late in the quarter, I was searching in my inbox for something when I came across an email from our former editor-in-chief, on the eve of the election for the print managing editor for last winter quarter, the quarter I began working on the magazine. In it he suggested we take to heart this quote from Lillian Ross:
A helpful editor should have the following qualities: understanding of and sympathy for writers; the editorial talent to recognize and appreciate journalistic and literary talent; an openness to all kids of such talent; confidence and strength in his own judgment; resistance to fads and fakery in publishing; resistance to corruption and opportunism, to exhortations from people, including writers and other editors, who are concerned with “popularity” and “the market”; moral and mental strength, and the physical strength to sustain these; energy and resourcefulness in helping writers discover what they should write about; literally unlimited patience with selfishness and egotism; the generosity and character required to give away his own creativity and pour it into a group of greedy and usually ungrateful writers.
This kind of editor is a rarity. If you’re lucky, you may find one. Avoid the following kind of editor: one who does not like writers.
I think at a certain point I lost sight of that. I wasn’t perfect. If I could go back, I would have been more compassionate, more patient, and never have let the little arguments and conflicts break through my composure. But that’ll be for next time. All in all, I think we did good. You can decide for yourself come next Friday.
It’s probably because I’m from a part of California where “weather” means sunshine and wildfires, but I kind of love storms. It’s gray, it’s wet, I can’t feel my hands when I come home and my screen door keeps blowing open and closed violently in the wind. But at least it’s interesting. I like the way the wet leaves make imprints on the wet sidewalk and the way all the streets shine as puddles throw headlights back at the cars. It’s the perfect curl up on my couch with a book and coffee weather. And hey, I like the challenge of being blown backwards by the wind on my walk to any given destination.