Something I’ve been saying for years in private, and will now say again in public, is that I think humans, mostly, are not really very bright. I think we have what I call “fractional intelligence.” The rare Einstein or Newton pops up from the great mass of us and does something brilliant, but for the most part, we’re intellectual also-rans, riding on the coattails of the smart ones. And even the brightest among us don’t shine all the time.
Human intelligence is a sort of collaborative effort. I got a look at the plans for a horseshoe-making machine a few years back, something that was invented at the Burden Iron Works in Troy, New York.
It helped win the Civil War, actually, though you won’t often read that. Whereas southern mounted soldiers had to have their horses shod by a blacksmith, who would individually shape each shoe out of a straight bar of iron, heated in a furnace and pounded into the characteristic horseshoe shape on an anvil — a labor-intensive and lengthy process — northern soldiers could have their horses shod in minutes by a farrier, who would take a pre-made shoe and tack it on after only minor hammer-and-anvil shaping (and hoof-trimming, of course — which is what I’m doing in the attached picture, in about 1972).
The thing was, the original device was TWO machines. One took the iron bar stock and did this and that to it, but it took this second machine to actually create horseshoes. It was only after a couple of years that the inventor figured out how to combine the two machines into one, and end with a device that you could feed iron bar stock into one end, and collect finished horseshoes in a variety of sizes out the other.
But even me, doofus that I am, could see the simple mechanical differences between Machines One and Two, and Machine Three.
Why did the inventor not simply start with Machine Three? Because … like all of us, he wasn’t all that smart. I’d bet money that when he had the final engineering insight that allowed him to perfect Machine Three, he went D’oh! Almost certainly, even he felt it should have been obvious from the beginning, and he berated himself for being so dumb.
As an editor, I’m used to being Machine Three. A writer pens an article, or a book, or a screenplay — some of which are near perfect, others of which are barely readable — and I help them fix and finish it. They create the original story or idea, and I pitch in a little or a lot to help make it printable or salable.
If it’s a book, this can mean quite a lot of back-and-forthing, but when I was a newspaper/magazine editor, it meant only that my grubby hands guddled around in their work and changed it to suit me.
The perils of this one-way process were comically obvious when my cool young music writer at Flagstaff Live raved about a concert as “one of the dopest acts I’ve seen in years.” Stodgy Editor Me corrected “dopest” (which means “most awesome,” in case you don’t know that particular bit of slang) to “dopiest.”
They were all really understanding about it.
Anyway, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this. It’s just this:
Unfortunately, I’m one of the half-intelligent ones, the semi-lame-brains who need help. And I blog.
One of the perils of posting on a blog without full-bore fanatic-level proofing before you hit the Publish button is that you sometimes end up with typos in the final on-the-blog piece. I don’t know what other bloggers do in these situations, but I usually go back and quietly fix whatever errors I find.
But in the original posting, when I trade in my editing hat for my writing hat (necessary in creative writing, in case you didn’t know that), I need an editor just as much as anybody. I can shift back and forth between one and the other fairly rapidly, but I seem to be less effective as an editor when it’s my own writing.
I always worry that readers will think a little bit less of me as a serious thinker when they find these things, just as I’m prone to think less of … oh, certain people of the right, or of religion, when they post their comically dyslexic paeans.
In yesterday’s post, “How To Be Wrong — Part 4 of 4,” I had at least two really annoying typos. I corrected them when I saw them, late last night and early today, but … argh. I wish they hadn’t been there for the several hundred people who’d already read them.
So: Help me out. Be my Machine Three.
If, in the future, you see ANYTHING that could use clarifying or correction, bring it to my attention. As I already know I’m a lame-brain, a doofus, you’re not going to hurt my feelings. Drop it in a comment and I’ll make the fix.
The Doofus Code, which I’ve just now invented, says “I’d rather be right with help than wrong with pride.”
If the final product ends up being better with the collaborative effort of others, I’m not too proud to accept that help.
(Besides which, at some point I hope to be writing another book here, using blog posts as the proving grounds for the chapters-to-be.)
Also, in advance: Thanks!