J.B. Blackford

Refine. Hone. Distill. The self is a text, too.

Manifesto Seems Like Such a Dirty Word

There aren’t many words that can be easily substituted for “manifesto.” Proclamation? Declaration? Statement, I guess, but who wants to be so bland? The sadness of semantics is that, often, completely useful words can be diluted, slanted, spun into a harshness that they don’t deserve. Not wanting to align with a Marx or a Hitler, and nowhere near arrogant enough to call myself a Loy or a Breton, I nonetheless need to declare my motives, my intentions, my views, at least concerning how I see myself as an artist.

I am an editor. I take the work already molded by others, and I sharpen the edges, highlight the depths. But sometimes Second-Guess asks, “Who are you to think you know better than someone else how to say what they’re thinking? How can you call yourself ‘artist’ when you aren’t really creating anything, but just trifling with someone else’s something?” I find them to be hard questions to answer, but oh so worthy of consideration. As someone who has struggled over putting word to page, scrutinized word choice and punctuation placement—interrogated myself repeatedly, “What are you trying to say?”—I feel that it can seem an egregious intrusion on someone else to reassemble their words.

We learn the rules while very young in school–and while listening, watching, reading the media put out by the ones who learned the rules and stick to them. It may seem so small, so inessential a thing, but (as I used to try to convince hostile students) the right thing in the right place is an unconscious signal. We use punctuation to give inflection; the semicolon and the comma give just the right pause, simulated intake of breath. All of these tiny details helps brush away the tiny distractions that prevent us from clearly understanding one another.

I am an attempt at an unbiased audience. What matters is not what the writer owes me, as a reader, what they’re trying to tell or teach or persuade; I am not the consumer coming with expectations, but the ultimate ear, the epitome of a sounding-board.

This is short for a manifesto, but there isn’t much more to say. When I’m given a text to work with, the goal is to alter as little of the author’s voice as possible, while wiping away anything that might keep readers from understanding or assimilating these thoughts as their own. Of course, there is also attention paid to small details: There is nothing wrong with making sure that single quotation marks are in their place and that apostrophes are where they belong. A misplaced, missing, or misused word can create unnecessary snags, and if you can’t figure out how to phrase something, it’s likely that I can. The biggest dilemma for a writer is being able to see outside of one’s own perspective—it’s why we can’t see typos, transposed words, or thoughts that are a complete jumble, since we know what we mean anyway—and it’s my job to take the writer’s ideas and make them intelligible to the reader.

More simply put, my goal is to be a catalyst to communication. Our language and interaction come in many forms and require many tools; mediums vary, and audiences can be critical of the results. The digital world is still language-bound, and neither pixels nor paper can escape human error. I am a same-speech translator, ensuring that as little as possible gets lost in the thought-to-word transcription process.

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This entry was posted on August 1, 2012 by in Editing and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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