Update on my dispute with the magazine editor:
After saying on Monday or Tuesday that we should call it a day (this was when he saw how much I had revised his revised draft), he emailed a few hours later and asked for help deciphering the document I’d sent him showing my changes to his draft. (I had used Word’s “compare documents” thing, and he was flustered by all the red and blue.)
We went back and forth a couple more times. He insisted that he’d made only cosmetic changes to improve the flow, but it seemed obvious to me that he didn’t understand or agree with what, to me, was the main idea of the essay -- he had changed or deleted most of the language pertaining to that idea. I don’t know how we could have resolved our differences without sitting down together and looking at his changes more closely, but there was no time for that. He was frantic about his deadline.
What a frustrating experience. I’m trying to be more flexible, more open, because my rigidity about artistic integrity might be one of the main reasons I can’t make a living. So this seemed almost like a test of my new attitude. I was flexible. I think I met him halfway. But he didn’t budge.
He put a lot of time into the piece, and I would have tolerated a lot of his revisions in order to have a first magazine article in print. That meant a lot to me. But, on the other hand, I didn’t want to have my first published piece be something I didn’t even know how to defend because I didn’t know what it was about. Especially when the topic, gay sex cruising, is so controversial and would surely generate questions and argument.
This was quite a struggle for me. My impulse early on had been that he didn’t understand the piece, but I questioned that feeling. It’s not like I enjoy cutting off my nose to spite my face. I fretted and pondered and fretted some more, and, after two more days of back and forth with the editor, I told him that I thought we were at odds regarding the main ideas of the piece and, since we didn’t have time to do a closer rewrite together, we should call it quits.
He wrote back and asked me to show him one example of a change he'd made that altered the meaning. I went through his changes one by one and sent him a list of all the changes I was troubled by.
I guess what I got out of this whole experience is an unpublished essay and a magazine editor who doesn't like me. Sweet.
(Just to be clear, he made a lot of changes, small and large. Besides deleting a couple longer passages, sentences and paragraphs, a lot of his revisions were simple changes in word choice. Sometimes his change of a word changed the meaning of the sentence. Other times he added stuff that was way off base, either in style or content. The essay was heavily revised.)