July 6th, 2005


Apology to my editors

I'd like to apologize to my editors, the people I write (increasing quantities of) journalism for. Right now, I know several of you are waiting for pieces from me, pieces which in some cases are past their deadlines. If it's not articles, it's revisions to articles already written, answers to your queries, fact checks, ideas for new pieces, new blog texts. And if it's not that, it's scheduling meetings for lunch, dinner or drinks; after all, I'm not often in New York, and many of you are based here.

It's a strangely personal thing, writing for someone. You establish a relationship with your editors, whether you've met them or not. You live through some passionate moments. The excitement of being "discovered" by them as a writer they'd like to have in their magazine or book. The flatteries with which they coax you into your first assignment (or should we call it an "assignation"?) The written flirtation of the first article, which you desperately want to get right the same way a lover wants to get the first date right. The gradual establishment of trust, and a regular relationship. Being coaxed and fleeced for fresh ideas. Submitting the second piece, and the third. Receiving payment, and noticing a tingly little surge in the soft bourgeois joys of life as a result. Then the first rumblings of discontent, the first spat, the unintended hurtful remark, the lovers' quarrel, the footsy games with other editors, the guilt, oh, the guilt!

Within the last month I've met three editors I'd previously only known as names at the top of e mails: Ella Christopherson of Index, Rick Poynor of Design Observer, and Jesse Pearson of Vice. It was an odd experience; I felt I already knew them very well. Rick was "the third uncle": very affable, judicious, kind and thorough. We met at the Photographers' Gallery Cafe in London and spoke, mostly, about relationships: the relationship between editing and writing, between free writing and paid writing, and between blogs and magazines. When he made me witness the contract for a new book he's been commissioned to write, I felt almost as if I were being asked to be best man at a wedding, or godfather to a child. (Rick has some interesting thoughts on the editing process in a recent piece.) I'm long overdue a Design Observer post, and I'm currently working with Rick to find ways for this to be something I can do in the spontaneous, personal style I use here on Click Opera, because, although one might reasonably expect this to produce trivia and whimsy, in fact quite the opposite seems to happen: the free-floating, personal approach seems to pull down a surprising number of the day's big themes.

Ella Christopherson turned out to be dangerously charming. I visited the Index offices with Mai Ueda, who immediately put a purple orchid behind Ella's ear. The effect was irresistible. Ella seems far too young and bouncy to be the editor of a magazine. She has something of Tigger from Winnie the Pooh about her; she's quick and playful and singsongy, and at a certain point in the conversation throws her head back with a geeky snarl and makes you fall instantly in love with her. Publisher Peter Halley, meanwhile, lurks somewhere in the background, glancing across from his meeting, shy, testy and slightly scary. Ella covers for him faithfully: "Peter will be so bummed to know you were here..."

Vice's Jesse Pearson came by the opening party for my art show with Gavin McInnes. Jesse and Gavin are a hilarious double act, there's never a dull moment when they're around. "We're both celebrating diversity," joked Gavin, pointing to the T shirts he and Jesse were wearing. His featured a scary array of guns, Jesse's a cute collection of cats. I don't seem to be writing so much for Vice these days, but it's nice to meet the team and feel so comfortable with them. I want to see the Vice office before I leave New York. I love seeing people's offices. Perhaps I can get a free Boredoms album (Vice Records is their US label).

There are still lots of editors I've yet to meet. The rest of the Design Observer people, Steve Heller at the AIGA Voice (sorry, Steve, I'm overdue with a piece, I know), Julie Lasky at ID magazine, the Adobe people, the Thames and Hudson people. I look forward to meeting all of you, and I apologize for my slowness with copy this month. Having to improvise stories for four hours a day in an art gallery (and then be interviewed for Time Out or whatever) is unexpectedly exhausting, and afterwards I just feel burned out, frazzled, empty.

I also apologize for transgressing, in this blog entry, against one of the sacred, unwritten rules of magazine publishing: thou shalt not discuss thy editor-writer relationship in public. I realize that you may not all have wanted the world to know just how charming you are.