I was raised to chase precision. I recall being a child and struggling to execute the prescribed stitches and patterns for embroidery samplers – the care my mother would take unknotting the mess that I’d inevitably make out of pastel flosses. Her stitches: always immaculate. She’d continually fix the bridesmaid and prom dresses of friends, family, and acquaintances, who'd fallen prey to lousy alterations by less skilled and often higher paid seamstresses – carefully undoing the seams, re-cutting, re-sewing, re-envisioning. Before she had an adjustable dress form, I’d model the dresses so she could see how the hems fell, if the seams puckered, if everything was good enough to wear.
Although I’ve never been quite as good with my hands as my mother, I think I’m attracted to editing because it allows me to practice a degree of carefulness that is often absent from my daily life. Correcting a misplaced comma or homophone error is a bit like fixing a stitch – methodical, exact. Correcting form and structure is a bit like pinning a dress and taking your scissors to the fabric – an act of faith in how much you know about the medium, in your ability to make things better. But restructuring a poem or essay is less brave than cutting the extra fabric out of a waistline because you can always go back to the earlier draft. Nothing in editing is irreparable (except, perhaps, the ego).
At the end of the day, I want people to look at the poems and essays I’ve obsessed over and find them as flawless as my mother’s work. I want the work I edit to be good enough to wear – something I can be proud to have my name attached to.