Editing Anxiety

Over the summer I agreed to edit a new encyclopedia on the Antebellum United States. I knew it would be a lot of work, but I wasn’t prepared for how nervous it makes me. This is not a job for people with a tendency to second-guess themselves.

The encyclopedia will eventually have about 300 entries. I started assigning them in November, and right away I entered panic mode. What if these people aren’t any good? (You can only tell so much from a CV.) What if the perfect scholar to write an entry contacts me three days after I assigned that entry to somebody else? What if I go over budget?

So far, I’ve assigned nearly one third of the entries, and several people have sent them in either on or before their deadlines. I’m grateful to these early authors — although I haven’t read most of the entries yet, so that gratitude may not last. But I now have 10% of the work in draft form, which is great because I have to send 25% to the press in two months.

I’m putting it aside for the next 48 hours so I can go give a presentation at the Fort Fisher 150th Anniversary Commemoration. But if anyone needs me on Monday, you can find me alternating between editing encyclopedia entries and curling up in a chair with my cat, who does not demand historical accuracy, originality, or clear writing.

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