Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I(am) an Editor: Editing for

Following a successful entry to a small caliber photography exhibition, where I showcased a photograph taken in Kalimantan (Borneo), I began sending my articles to several publications in Jakarta. Since I was still in my teenage years, most of the major publications referred my pieces to its sister newspaper or magazine, dedicated for younger readers. Several years spent writing for such publications never propelled me to consider working as an editor, especially not a content editor or manager. Yet, before exiting my teens I became a content editor for (IM), an up and coming online publication that primarily caters to Indonesians who are interested in studying, working and/or living abroad.

My journey with IM began when I had dinner with family friends in Rhode Island. The summer air combined with the smoke from the barbecue permeated through the air, rendering my stomach to growl. I silently managed my craving for a glass of ice tea and some French fries, whilst staring uncomfortably at the lawn. Two young guests piled in, one of whom I had not met before. After a satisfying meal we gathered inside for some dessert.
When it comes to shyness I have not embarked from my childhood habits of staying quiet for the first hour or so before finally speaking out. Soon enough the time came for me to prick and prod my new acquaintance. Before long we were talking about our shared experience with a liberal arts education. All of a sudden we came across IM. Like most of the site’s contributors, he had only written one article. A rising senior at Sarah Lawrence, I had developed a tendency to jump at any writing opportunity, as if my fingertips could write a brand new article each night (which is a lie, judging from
What began as a potentially short and awkward conversation snowballed into an email to a member of the core IM team, seven published articles before the end of 2013 and an editorial position by February 2014. The quick journey to IM might have been catalyzed by 1) the second Congress of Indonesian Diaspora in Jakarta in August 2013, where a member of IM’s core team member, presented about the site and its network or 2) my personal anxiety-fuelled need for experience in anticipation for graduate school application. Whatever it was, by November I felt productive, yet cautious of the amount of contribution I had provided to the relatively young website.
Trained to remain aware at all times, I knew that leaning a certain way too quickly could potentially lead to certain repercussions. However, when you are sitting in your empty apartment miles away from the epicenter of such paranoia, i.e. Jakarta, you become less careful. And boy am I glad to have let my guard down!
When the core team called for editors and other positions, I felt unsure. Yet, the editor in charge of my articles pushed me to apply. And as a writer who had some experience with editors, I trusted and respected his view. I have never been an editor beyond the yearbook committee in junior high school and the photography team at SLCspeaks, an online publication at Sarah Lawrence. Was I prepared to take on the responsibilities of being a content editor at an ever growing organization? Did I have the time and energy left for the position? If my memory serves me right, the application process consisted of submitting an application form and being interviewed over Skype twice.
Within a few months since the opportunity was announced, I was on board the editorial team, slowly learning the ropes, whilst making sure that my own personal vessel would not sink. Truthfully, completing senior year at Sarah Lawrence, interning at NYU, applying to graduate school, managing the photography team at SLCspeaks, and being an editor at IM, as well as maintaining a social life felt rather daunting. Leading a hectic life overly adorned with responsibilities and obligations have taught me not to obsess over one specific aspect, be it a job or friends, and eventually make it the center of my universe.
Moving rapidly through the IM ranks, I’ve had to learn fast and communicate even faster. Akin to a roller coaster ride, the job is full of waiting rooms and curve balls. Although editors might be well known for their ball catching abilities, ones in newer publication are required to throw more balls than usual. For instance, just a few hours after receiving the job, I contacted approximately thirty friends who seemed to be suitable contributors. One who constantly expects the worst in life, I was elated to see the number of people who replied and eventually wrote for the publication.

The life of an editor is more dynamic than I thought. Most of the communication between fellow editors, editors and the core team, as well as editors and the contributors are conducted on-line. Hence, in today’s society, it was challenging not to work 24/7, minus sleeping and bathing time. Being on holiday has been dangerous because free time is infamous for wiping away the mental database of follow-ups that I have to check regularly.
For instance, the anticipation to read an article, edit it and finalize it has escaped my mind more often than I’d like to admit. However, I prefer those days than the prospect of rushing a piece for publication. Consequently, I spent the first few weeks of my time at IM to schedule as many articles as possible, hoping that it would prevent me from missing any publication dates. Unfortunately, balance is a constant champion. Due to overscheduling, at the moment, articles submitted in July will only be published in December. Such unforeseen outcomes serve as learning opportunities. Currently, I have to add an additional clause explaining the situation, whenever a new contributor comes on board. Unexpected turn of events is one of many things that continue to keep me on my feet, ready to run when needed. Otherwise, the routine, any routine for that matter, often slows me down and leaves me out of practice.
The funny thing of being an editor is that one has the liberty and the inconvenience of having to set their contributors’ and their own schedule. Rarely have I been yelled at for slacking off on a particular article, because the higher ups may not be aware of my day to day routine. Instead, they are more likely to provide criticism once the post goes live. Unfortunately, when it comes to editing, mistakes are more frequently found after publication. Fortunately, online publications allow changes to be made after the fact.
Being a busybody can feel isolating. Many a times have I lost my patience or ignorant of other people’s pace, needs, and work ethic. Even today, I struggle to deal with certain personalities due to contrasting priorities and personalities. Having to work together with different people, both in the IM team and contributors, serves as a good practice opportunity to continuously revise my own work ethic and attitude. On a more general level it has provided much needed exposure to other people’s experiences studying and living abroad, including stories that are often inaccessible. Hopefully, this particular aspect of the experience will enhance my ability to work in teams, which has been a constant struggle for me since primary school.
Since IM is a collaborative effort at sharing niche information and creating a community, I have found it quite challenging to deliver my thoughts without quarreling. The limited time that I have spent in the editorial team has given me a glimpse of the small, yet palpable bureaucracy that many organization and companies run on. At times I have had to learned to take a step back from a potentially ugly argument and review the issue carefully, as I am often guilty of hyperbolizing problems at hand. Despite our ideological attitude, IM and the people behind it are young, which translates to faster diagnosis and treatment of weaknesses.
At the end of the day, IM has become a venue to be part of a larger organization, one that is strongly tied with Indonesia. Participating in something beyond myself has been both a challenge and a chance to instigate change. At the very least, each contributors, subscriber, reader, and team member have given the platform to voice their thoughts and perspective on salient topics, ranging from college application to the usage of Indonesian as the site’s primary language. Moreover, establishing a relationship with contributors, be it one that is professional or personal, has shown me how people affect one another in very concrete ways, such as choosing university, and how IM has affected each and every one of us.
Ultimately, being at IM, thus far, has been a rewarding journey. Prior to writing this article, I had talked about the site from the point of view of a contributor and reader. Even though I thought about this piece as a possible idea a few months back, I wanted to wait several months after becoming editor to begin writing. Getting a feel of the organization from an editorial perspective is highly salient when it comes to this article. Yet, I did not want to write it at the end of my time as an editor, i.e. mid-February 2015, as it might run the risk of sounding sad and nostalgic.
So far, although it definitely is not sugar coated, IM has opened more doors than expected. Sometimes dealing with colleagues, contributors, and readers can be frustrating, but I think that comes from the sheer nature of dealing with human beings. If I’m not mistaken, one of the interviewers asked me what I would want to receive from the experience. I think I provided a generic answer: to make friends, gain experience and increase my contribution to the site. But, today it would be to understand myself and the world around me, especially the environment right outside my little bubble. This motivation might sound selfish. However it seems to have served me well in communicating with people and publishing useful, interesting reads on IM.
And maybe, just maybe, the tiny contributions I have made might change one of the most basic common things that IM members share: Indonesia.

P.S. If you are a member or would like to be a member please reach out. This editor gets ultra curious after months of conversing with various people online.
*All images were provided by the author


  1. Wow... you go girl!!

  2. Grab the opportunities while you can and enjoy the experience!