A Day In The life

It’s Not Easy Working In Your Underwear
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I was recently introduced to someone and after they learned what I do for a living, it marked the 10,000th time I’ve heard the well-intentioned statement, “Oh man, you must get free guns and gear and go on hunting trips ALL the time!”

Ah, if it were only so.

First off, don’t take this missive as whining. I consider it more of a case of “setting the record straight” so both our loyal readers understand a little bit of how their favorite gun magazine gets thrown together each month. Like any work-from-home job, there are good times, bad times, really bad times, along with the occasional moment of sublime pleasure. Thus, I often tell people, “I’m the happiest little boy in all the land!” However, in case you were wondering, here’s an actual sampling of the daily routine of one of America’s most beloved magazine editors.

Oops, turns out he wasn’t available. Therefore, I’ll give you a sampling of my day (given in military time because it looks cooler).
0600: The alarm goes off, I shut it off and prepare to hit the ground running to start another day of world-class gun journalism.

0645: I actually get out of bed. After all, why hurry? I’ve already retired once before; I work from home and my boss is 2,000 miles away and probably still asleep.

0700: Coffee is ready and I feel the sweet, sweet essence of the coffee bean kick-start my vital functions. Now somewhat awake, standing in the kitchen, I realize I forgot to put on pants after wandering by the picture window in our living room.

0705ish: I’m at my computer ready to start another day of world-class gun journalism.

0800: Finally fire up my work email. The previous 45 minutes have been taken up by my daily “news dive” to educate myself about world events and put myself in a proper frame of mind to commit editing — hateful, with a side order of angry.

0815: I start with the daily onslaught of emails. Overnight, about 25 emails have come in, of which approximately three are related to GUNS Magazine. The rest are press releases, solicitations for certain male-only enhancement products and offers of deep interpersonal friendship from attractive eastern European women if I only provide my Social Security number, bank account information and a “processing fee” paid in gift cards.

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0900: Tired of general emails, I turn then to our reader mail box. As I’ve pointed out before, GUNS is unique because the editor personally oversees reader correspondence. At most other magazines, some Junior Assistant Vice-Deputy Editor Intern looks at mail and forwards the most relevant items to His Lordship. Here, I wade through the incredible volume of mail — both electronic and physical — wishing I had a Junior Assistant Vice-Deputy Editor Intern to deal with it.

1000: I’ve mostly cleaned up the reader mail. The typical tally is 15 “nice” emails offering positive feedback on recent stories or kudos to writers. Then, there is typically about five questions about guns. Sometimes these questions are so specific, the engineer who originally designed the firearm back in 1922 probably wouldn’t know the answer. There are also a few legitimate complaint or correction emails and then there are the one or two that essentially start with “Dear dirty-rotten no-good inbred dirt-eating Editor, I read with alarm the recent issue of your so-called magazine….”

Mostly I ignore these, even though a few are so provocative I must respond, especially if they are trashing a writer. Among our “greatest hits” was a reader who doesn’t like our printing font, a person who was upset at our use of story dividers known as a “column dek” and one fellow who was livid Will Dabbs has “M.D.” after his name. I told him to take two aspirin and look up “Honorific Titles.”

And then there is the occasional letter from a true, dyed-in-the-straitjacket, certified crazy person. These are usually long and rambling but sometimes entertaining. I’ve heard all sorts of conspiracy theories about aliens, the government and Hillary Clinton, often in various combinations. Fortunately, I’ve only considered notifying the authorities once — it was a U.S. Mail letter talking about all kinds of high-level government conspiracies but the signature was smudged. I could only make out “Donald Trum …” but the last part of the name had some kind of orange splotch making it unreadable.

1100: We typically have a team video meeting. With editorial, administrative and sales folks scattered across the country, we have frequent video meetings to share information and make sure we’re all pulling in the same direction. Like any typical office, we also invariably end up in a lengthy discussion of something wildly crass or horribly inappropriate. Fortunately, representatives of our Human Resources department don’t attend these meetings or they would spontaneously burst into flame.

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One such discussion revealed we’re like every other company — during our meetings, most folks are wearing appropriate business-casual attire above their desk but something considerably less proper below, such as pajamas or boxer shorts. Personally, I always wear a clean, freshly-pressed business loincloth.

Noon: It’s lunchtime. I usually grab a sandwich and retire back to my computer screen to continue working diligently. At least this is what I put on my time sheet.

1300: This is one in the afternoon for normal people. At this point, I typically start dealing with questions from writers — and potential writers. Here’s the email I’m tempted to send nearly every day but won’t: “Dear John Doe — Thanks for your unsolicited story submission. I appreciate you’ve written several stories for your local JayCees newsletter and everyone says you should write for a big-time magazine but we typically only use professionals who have spent decades in the business. I do think your offer to write a 600-word story covering the comprehensive history and specifications of firearms of the U.S. Military from 1780-onward might also be a bit overly ambitious. Thank you for your interest, attached are the GUNS writer’s guidelines….”

1400: Two in the afternoon. This is when I begin working on story editing or the GUNS Magazine Podcast.

Editing a story is much like the process of making sausage. You grind up meat — and a few entrails — then carefully blend with spice and stuff into a casing. If you do it right, the end product is a savory combination where all the flavors blend nicely. In the case of a magazine, as editor you must be careful your own style never overshadows the writer lest the whole magazine end up dull and bland.

However, if something goes wrong, our figurative casing bursts and you end up with glop all over your floor, face and hands. In my case, split infinitives end up draped over a desk lamp, punitive infarctions are smeared on the wall and I once found a simile lodged in the fan of the computer. It turns into a real mess.

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This is why I’m usually weeping openly by 2:30. Eventually, my wife will come sidling into my office and offer comfort by reminding me of the jug of Kentucky Holy Water sitting patiently in the den. If I’m a good boy and finish my sausage, er, story, before quitting time I may have a wee taste.

1600: It’s now 4 p.m. and almost the end of business. I’ve just realized I’ve only completed 10% of my workload due to unscheduled phone calls, the several “End of the World As We Know It” crisis that occur throughout the day — and often require upwards of five minutes and one email to resolve — and several squirrel-related memes that absolutely, positively must be sent along to co-workers immediately.

1700: We’ve arrived at 5 p.m., the blessed end of the business day. Most of the time, my arthritic fingers are still flailing at the keyboard but I try to wrap things up in time for dinner and a quick visit to the den. Unfortunately, since our office and half the company are in time zones two or three hours later than mine, emails and requests continue to come in until 8 or 9 p.m. local time.
I always make sure to conscientiously and dutifully ignore these.

After all, I’m the happiest boy in all the land — plus, by now, I’ve been in the den a few hours.

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