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I Don’t Know What I Need to Do

I’m editing yearbook pages right now. Deadline is Monday. Stress is actually consuming me whole.

But it’s not just the stress – I am unbelievably frustrated by some of the copy these kids have written. I don’t expect it to be perfect (or even up to my expectations because those are very high), but it is so riddled with spelling and grammar errors, misplaced punctuation, and lazy sentences that I want to just write second deadline all by myself.

These people are all around my age. They are not kindergartners I’ve given an unreasonably high-level task. I understand that not everyone is a talented writer, but anybody with an IQ high enough to pass middle school should be able to follow a specific set of rules outlining what tense, structure, and content a caption or story needs to contain.

My adviser said something yesterday after I complained about how I had explicitly said to write in past tense, yet half of what I was editing had been put into the present. I don’t remember her exact words, but it was along the lines of “We have a school full of people that just don’t care. They’re so used to doing the bare minimum.” It was nice to hear someone else voice that sentiment because it’s exactly what I had been thinking. As long as the writing ends up on the page and the grade is achieved, what does it matter how good it is? Vicky will fix it all, right?

I have always been taught to do my best. It didn’t matter what grades I came home with, as long as I had given it all I could. If a C was the best I could do, so be it. Thankfully I’m capable of A’s, but if that wasn’t the case it would have been alright.

And yearbook is no different. I am not going to put all my energy into it because there are other things in my life, and sometimes I slack off, but I understand that I have a responsibility and am going to stick to it.

I do not expect my writers to be as passionate as I am about this. This isn’t the beginning of a career path for them. But it kills me that they don’t take any pride in it, don’t care that when I read over their copy I’m going to have to basically rewrite it because they couldn’t take a second to consult their writing packets or ask one extra question in an interview to provide some background.

I just don’t understand. Why don’t they care at all? Does letting me down not matter? Letting down the photographers when we don’t do well at contest because of writing? Letting down the whole school when they read through it and see their quotes amid a bunch of mediocre copy?

I’m definitely going to have a few words to say in class on Monday. Maybe I need to be a better motivator, need to instruct them better and show them why this matters. But I can only do so much.

~A Frustrated Teenage Poet

**If you read this, thanks, I just needed to take a break and structure my thoughts.

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14 thoughts on “I Don’t Know What I Need to Do

  1. Girl…don’t even start me on yearbook stuff. I was in your shoes last year and it was ROUGH, so I really sympathize with you. You should just get in front of the class one day and be like “Hey, this is what you need to do and if you don’t do it your grade will be deducted!” (in my school, yearbook was a class so we got grades in it…grades helped motivate people a little bit). I hope things get better, you’ll finish editing!

    1. I’m glad someone understands! And yeah, it’s a class for me too and, arguably, their deadlines are done but I might as well have had a bunch of middle schoolers do it. Alright, maybe that’s a bit harsh.
      Anyway, thanks Vic 🙂

  2. From someone that also edited two yearbooks and had to rewrite 80% of everything – people take writing for granted. I think it’s only gotten worse over the years. In the past, people would write letters on stationery and mail them, because that was the only way to communicate. This was when long distance phone calls were expensive, so there was no alternative. People would write longhand or type.

    Today? If you don’t write for school or work, there’s very little reason to do it. The longest thing most people ever write today on a regular basis is a Facebook status. Otherwise it’s 140 characters on Twitter, or a few words on some other mobile social network. Most of the time it’s texts that go:

    wer r u?

    m l8

    k c u l8r

    That’s why anyone who blogs, even those that don’t write all that well, has my support and gratitude. I’d wager that the Paretto Principle applies: 80% of the everything written is created by 10% of the literate population.

    While yes you can tongue-lash your classmates, I’d argue that the teachers and parents deserve just as much admonition. I don’t need to convince anyone that maintains a blog that writing and language are beautiful and useful. Everyone else needs to be educated and taught to appreciate them.

    Good luck Victoria, you volunteered for a thankless job. It will be all sorts of fulfilling though once it’s all done and you’re holding the end product in your hands.

    1. Thank you for your (well written) comment. Texts like that, especially from people with smartphones, irk me. I don’t write texts like emails exactly but I try not to sound like a 6th grader. And I hadn’t heard of the Paretto Principle before, but that sounds very likely. I’m glad you agree about the importance of language. The world may be changing but we still need to communicate efficiently. Thanks Riccardo! I can’t wait ’til the book’s printed in May, I know it will be worth it 🙂

        1. Really? I talked to someone who told me it looked like a blowoff class on a resume and it kinda made me wonder what I’ve been wasting the last 3 years of my life and buckets of stress on

          1. Please. That person doesn’t know what he/she is talking about. The trick is to detail what you actually DID in the “class”. (It’s really a lot of work, and not your ordinary class.) The key is to highlight it properly when you build your application. Being yearbook content editor requires leadership, responsibility, attention to detail, communication skills, time management, patience and perseverance. Oh, and a bit of writing skill helps as well if you’re rewriting 80% of the text! If you’re applying to a degree course that’s writing oriented, attaching a sample of the yearbook writing you did (along with all the other writing samples) is a great addition. (I’d classify it as feature writing.) I’m assuming you’re not handling the financial part of the yearbook (as an editor might for a college yearbook), but that’s the only thing missing. Otherwise, you’ve got the beginnings of rudimentary project management experience. The fact that you’re stressing over the whole thing is evidence. 🙂

            1. I’m so glad you said that, because their comment made me worry quite a bit. We went to New York for the Crown Awards last year (before I was an editor) so it’s not an unimportant book. I’ll definitely follow your advice when I’m applying next year – I want to be a journalist or an editor so I do think it’s good framework for that. Thank you so much – you’ve made me feel loads better xx

              1. Make sure you start engaging your faculty adviser on your university goals. It’s never too early to start, especially if you’re looking to get into Columbia. 🙂

  3. It can be rather frustrating to see that the conventions of the English language are being twisted so horribly, no? Good luck with your editing – I’m sure you’ll turn it into something beautiful. 🙂 xx

  4. So, my impulse is to either give the advice that you never become a teacher, lest you face a lifetime of such frustration; or to suggest you do become a teacher so you can perhaps impart more respect for the written word. Unfortunately, everything today seems slanted toward fast communication at the expense of thorough and correct communication. Grammar and definition rules seem to just be changed to concur with present common usage rather than being used to represent certain standards. Literal can now be used to mean either literal or figurative! Egah!!! Check it out. Must say I’m glad someone of your generation still cares. We golden oldies still do. Judy

    1. The funny thing is, I had my heart set on being a teacher until a couple of years ago (when I realised I didn’t have an ounce of my dad’s unfailing patience and would therefore probably fail spectacularly).

      Ha, the “literally” thing gets me. I try very hard to avoid using it when it quite clearly means “figuratively,” but I’ll admit it happens sometimes. Being around teenagers does that to one.

      I’ll do what I can to keep the language alive and correct, Judy! Thanks for commenting and appreciating xx

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