I’ll admit it: the editor’s version of the Mile High Club just isn’t as sexy as the original. We try, what with all that sensual red ink and bumpy-looking notes from the turbulence, but it just doesn’t have the same kind of allure as bonking in the bathroom at 37,000 feet.
Still, editing on a plane is where most of my really great intellectual intercourse happens. Why is that? Here are some of my theories:
- I’m stuck in one place. As a kid, I was way more effective when I did homework in the car on the way to whatever extracurricular my mom was toting me to that day, and I think this efficiency-from-confinement has carried on into adulthood. I can’t go clean something or walk the dog or any other form of constructive procrastination because I’m literally strapped down. Middle seats are especially effective.
- Distractions are minimized. Wireless service becoming more widespread threatens to change this fact, but until they make it free (probably never since they all airline carriers seem one barrel of oil away from charging for carry on luggage), my sanctuary is safe. Though some passengers express curiosity about the large stack of paper binder-clipped in front of my, most are busy sleeping open-mouthed or reading the latest John Grisham novel.
- When traveling, less is more. I edit fiction by hand, and there are times when the analogue way of doing things just plain pays off. I don’t have to watch my computer battery or buy those overpriced, poorly designed headsets for the in-flight movie. Plus, I can concurrently eat and edit on that little tray table; can you?
- I find really great character details to pass on to my writers. You just see great stuff when it comes to traveling, like a woman eating a salad from Cinnabon or the smell of a middle-aged businessman obsessively crunching corn nuts washed down with tiny bottles of whiskey. Or the word “lavatory,” which only seems to be used on airplanes.
Writers have their favorite places and ways to write, and the same is true for editors (we’re not paper-pushing desk monkeys!). Many of these conditions can be achieved in other, less expensive settings (like when riding the bus or a sitting in doctor’s waiting room even if you don’t have an appointment), but for me, it’s still a sure shot to stick me on a plane with a manuscript.
Of course, a plane is not the strangest place I’ve ever chosen to work my editorial magic; editing in a bar is sure to set the stage for pick-up lines. Maybe there’s hope for sexing up the mysterious world of editing after all.