It’s lonelier than you realise
The thing about being Editor-in-Chief is that you don’t really have a boss. It’s lovely and scary, but mostly it can be a bit lonely. You walk a difficult line between treating your Editors as confidants and colleagues, and you don’t always feel like you’re getting it right.
You sometimes feel a bit lonely when there’s a day ahead of you with no meetings. It helps to find ways to work with other people in the organisation, if only to have a bit more people-contact when the office is quiet.
It can also be lonely for other reasons. Glass has editorial independence from the rest of the SRC, and the GPS (we love you) are an amazing support system, but the Editors must still be singular, and somewhat removed. We can take guidance, listen to feedback, seek advice, but at the end of the day, our decisions – especially our editorial decisions – must be ours alone.
Sometimes – not often – you’ll make a call on behalf of your team. You won’t always get it right. You’ll get better at these decisions though, better at feeling the ground beneath your feet and knowing whether the soil will hold once you shift your weight onto it.
Past Editors & Execs are the only ones who really get it
They are golden, and you’ll never quite understand how they still have patience for you. Thank you Em. Thank you Tom. And the others who know exactly who they are.
You’re going to be angry like you’ve never been angry before
I think all writers should probably be angry or sad.
Angry is somewhat better for an Editor-in-Chief because angry has some energy, some spark to it. Angry is good. Mostly. Except when it becomes corrosive, keeps you up at night thinking about budgets and terms of reference and meeting minutes. This is when you buy a trampoline for the office.
I still don’t know what to do with this – this anger I have deep inside me while working at the Guild. I had a massage recently and the therapist told me she could feel where I store all of my resentment and dissatisfaction in my upper back. Oops.
It’s hard to explain the anger’s provenance.
It lies somewhere between a deep belief that student unionism – when done well – can be inordinately powerful and affecting not only for individual students, but our whole society.
It’s somewhere in my belief that a writer’s ability to distil the truth of a situation into prose is a glue that keeps our world together, and my frustration that doing this perfectly is so elusive.
It’s somewhere in how much I believe in the importance of student media, and how I feel like it has been stifled by bureaucracy at the Guild.
It’s somewhere in the arguments I overhear, and participate in, over minutia when I know there’s so much bigger change we could be making.
A fellow student media Editor sent me an email earlier this year during our budget challenge, which still plays on my mind. It’s something of an antidote to my anger, when I remember to dig back through my emails and reread it, and probably therefore explains what my anger is:
For what it’s worth, know that the legacy of the work which you and your team have put into Glass will outshine and outlast that of any decisions made by those who are seeking to undo it. [We] recognise that, your readership recognises that, everyone who doesn’t have their head firmly implanted in the scum-fuck bureaucracy of their arbitrary and self-aggrandising “political” procedures recognises it too. Unfortunately, much like the real world, this small minority of individuals happen to dictate much of life as we know it for the rest of us. Trust, however, that history will speak well of those who stood up to the bullshit – in this instance, that is Glass.
I caught up with an old friend recently, and had barely started telling them about it all – Glass, the Guild, when he interrupted me.
“This is small-time stuff, Ciaran. It’s all so small-time.”
I worry that he is right, and also that he is wrong.
You need coping mechanisms that are things other than doing more work
I could do Glass work forever. I frequently slip into a flow state of planning, proposals, admin, copyediting, writing, then look up, and a 12-hour day has slipped by. I kind of love it. The productivity is satisfying, with the only thing to pull me out of being the C Block air conditioning switching off right on 5pm, or my very patient father asking if he can please pick me up at a reasonable hour so I can be at home for dinner.
The problem is that what’s set in motion obviously stays in motion, and it’s hard to put Glass work down. It is never really done.
I’ve tried various methods of wresting my mind from Glass work – sauna, breathing exercises, massage, uni work (shudder), drinking too much, talking on the phone for hours with friends. I’d be lying if I told you I had figured out something that works. I’ve come to the conclusion that the only thing to do is to keep working.
Don’t drink coffee in the office at dinner time
You won’t sleep. Seriously. You’ll lie awake all night replaying conversations and rewriting emails in your head, with phrases like “SSAF”, “accountability mechanisms” and “student media” floating around in your brain.
Trust no-one (no-one!) and write everything down
The (other) golden rule is that you can’t trust anyone. That is your baseline. Whether it’s incompetency or malice, people will let you down. You need to back yourself.
Also, you will definitely forget those figures or ideas you promised yourself you would remember. Write them down. Even better, have a system for your notes rather than keeping 500 half-filled, unnamed Word Documents in your Sharepoint folder (guilty).
Ignore the chronically online trolls
Their words have zero meaning. Zilch. It’s kind of flattering that they care about you tbh. (If you’re reading, hi! I know exactly who you are. 💗)
Find people to tell you you’re doing a good job
You need a few “Yes Men” in your life. Not too many, but not too few either, otherwise you might burn them out when you ask them a couple of times a week whether you’re a really sucky Editor and whether you should resign.
Never forget the real work
The real work is the magazine, in print and online. The real work is in the emails from contributors, their attachments of their artwork, their writing, their dreams. The real work is in the words they put one in front of the other, and in the way you gently move them around to make the path of their work clearer.
I’m sorry this Guide is not more uplifting or practical. If you are elected next year’s Editor-in-Chief, I promise I’ll give you a proper handover. (also media team noms for next year’s elections are still open until Friday!).
In the spirit of transparency, though, this is what running student media at QUT right now is like. It has its bad moments, but there’s also joy in there. And lots of satisfaction. I’m both sad and glad that I won’t ever find another job like it.