One of the readers of my workday "at the desk" dispatches suggested this evening that I should collect them into a book or a calendar. And a former colleague chimed into suggest "a  calendar with pics of copy editors in Speedos," a prospect at which the mind's eye closes in horror.

I don't  sense a clamor for a book, and I don't have an inclination to make a calendar. But here's a sampling of 120 "at the desk" post from the past five years that you can use as suits you: making your own calendar, a cross-stitch sampler, or just a helpful exhortation taped to the top of your screen.


At the desk:

At the desk. I edited a man in Reno just to watch him cry.

At the desk. As they cheerfully say on the streets of New York, get out of my way.

At the desk. Had occasion today to recall a remark by my former colleague John Scholz: "They have agreed to forgive me for being right."

At the desk. At the end of the editing class each semester I tell my students that Chaucer was right: "The lyf so short, the craft so longe to lerne."

At the desk. You know how a dog turns around three times before it will lie down? I know writers like that.

At the desk. Always respect the author's voice, if it's a voice that anyone cares to listen to.

At the desk. Today's forecast calls for sustained prolixity with occasional outbreaks of hyperbole.

At the desk. So many stories to DRAIN THE LIFE FROM, so little time.

At the desk. I had hoped that we would not have to have this little talk again.

At the desk. The streak continues.

At the desk. Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?

At the desk. Something appealing, something appalling, something for everyone, editing tonight. Censure tomorrow, editing tonight!

At the desk. Keep your friends close, and your editor closer.


At the desk. There is no Chaos, only great Energy.

At the desk. Who's going to be first to harsh my mellow?

At the desk. So we edit on, against the current, borne back ceaselessly.

At the desk. I'm doing this for your own good.

At the desk. Unfortunately, this procedure is performed without anesthetic.

At the desk. Hold your applause.

At the desk. I will show you fear in a handful of text.

At the desk. I notice a couple of blood spots on the sleeve of my tweed jacket. Sometimes in the editing there's a little spatter.

At the desk. This is going to take more coffee than I have time to brew.

At the desk. That damn rock is at the bottom of the hill again.

At the desk. If you mean to hold to some usage shibboleth or zombie rule till it's pried from your cold, dead fingers, fine. I have pliers.

At the desk. Scalpel. Check. Machete. Check. Chainsaw. Check. Ready.

At the desk. Ask your doctor if editing is right for you.

At the desk. Dammit, this IS my circus; these ARE my monkeys.

At the desk. Editing is not a bug; it's a feature.

At the desk. I've laid around and played around this old town too long, but I feel like I've got to grammar on.

At the desk. If it weren't for gallows humor, we'd have no morale at all.

At the desk. Old newsroom adage: They can make you eat it, but they can't make you say it tastes good.

At the desk. Take out the dumbest stuff first.

At the desk. You can't make everybody happy. Stop trying.

At the desk. It was on fire when I got here.

At the desk. I'm going to make you an edit you can't refuse.

At the desk. Come back with a warrant.

At the desk. You see a reporter wearing a suit and tie, and you wonder: job interview or court appearance?

At the desk. Side effects may include irritability, agitation, nausea, palpitations, tremor, and accidie.

At the desk. It was a dark and stormy edit.

At the desk. Cut, sift, trim, prune, snip, crop, pare, and polish.

At the desk. My qualifications for being a newsroom manager: smart enough to do the job, dumb enough to take it.

At the desk, editing. The neurons give off a faint shriek as each one expires.

At the desk, with a spring in my step, a song in my heart, and a DELETE key at my fingers.

At the desk. You have no secrets from your editor.

At the desk. You live and learn. But not long and not much.

At the desk. Pretty sure this isn't Shinola.

At the desk. Exhilarating day today. I get to break in a new red pen.

At the desk. There is a scotch called Writers Tears. I have never had it, but I think I might recognize the taste.

At the desk. Who ya gonna call? Prosebusters.

At the desk. Taking it out on the widows and orphans.

At the desk, because, as John S. Carroll once told me, "If we thought you needed a life, we would have issued you one."

At the desk. New internal revenue stream: Nice little story you got there. Be a shame if something should ... happen ... to it.

At the desk. As Anna Russell reminded us, things would be so different if they were not as they are.

At the desk. High hopes for the venture into artificial intelligence, the natural variety having been so little evident in the industry.

At the desk. Edit. Or not edit. There is no try.

At the desk, commending Lord Chesterfield's advice: "Let blockheads read what blockheads write."

At the desk. Grrr. That is all.

At the desk. Imagine my excitement.

At the desk. Gracian said, "Good things, when short, are twice as good." I'm about to make a number of stories twice as good.

At the desk. Dammit, Jim, I'm an editor, not a thaumaturge.

At the desk. Bring out your dead.

At the desk. Earl Grey, hot.

At the desk. Shields up!

At the desk. The marks are getting wise to the scam.

At the desk. I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that.

At the desk, recalling Eeyore: "This writing business, pencils and what-not. Overrated, if you ask me."

At the desk. Keep your friends close, and your editor closer.

At the desk. I remember the past, and yet somehow I keep getting condemned to repeat it.

At the desk. Do these people imagine that they're being paid by the word?

At the desk. I didn't bring the funk.

At the desk. Step back. I've got a DELETE key and I'm not afraid to use it.

At the desk. Pig's going to need more lipstick.

At the desk. I look at this text and think, as Dr. Johnson said of "Paradise Lost," "None ever wished it longer."

At the desk. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of editing.

At the desk. Inside every long story there is a short story crying to get out.

At the desk: One more time: fast, cheap, good; you only get two.

At the desk. And it's all written ticky-tacky, and it all reads just the same.

At the desk. Some of you people are beginning to vex me.

At the desk. Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

At the desk. We're not putting out a seed catalogue here, people.

At the desk. If not actually disgruntled, I am far from being gruntled.

At the desk. This is not a drill.


At the desk. Lift that barge. Tote that bale.

At the desk, reaching for the vorpal blade.

At the desk. Objects in copy may be less significant than they appear.

At the desk, vowing to use my powers for good, rather than for evil.

At the desk. Failure is an option.

At the desk. I know I said editing is midwifery, but I grow weary of these breech and forceps deliveries.

At the desk. Fill up the pages with treacle and ink.

At the desk. This may sting a little bit.

At the desk. It's supposed to be good to get up from the desk and move around, but it makes people nervous to see me approach.

At the desk. We hold these edits to be self-evident.

At the desk. This is just to say I have deleted the metaphors I found in your article. Forgive me they were so inept and so overripe.

At the desk. Don't make me come back there.

At the desk. You edit sixteen tons and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt.

At the desk. Looking to see if Strains To Be Cute, Eighteen Hundred Words, I Thought I Moved It, and Deadline Schmedline are working today.

At the desk. As Mr. Thoreau said, "Any fool can make a rule, and every fool will mind it."

At the desk. What a senseless waste of human life.

At the desk. You know my methods. Apply them.

At the desk. It's quiet out there. Too quiet.

At the desk, recalling T.S. Eliot: "Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers."

At the desk. Another day, another dolor.

At the desk. Meetings will do more to shorten your life than smoking cigarettes.

At the desk. Deuces and one-eyed jacks are wild.

At the desk. I'm an editor, and I'm OK; I work all night, and I sleep all day.

At the desk. Mama said there'd be days like this.

At the desk. Don't even ask.

At the desk. I saw what you did. I know who you are.

At the desk. Nobody knows the trifles I've seen.

At the desk, to serve and correct.

At the desk. No man but a blockhead ever edited, except for money.

At the desk. They weep with delight when I give them a smile, and tremble with fear at my frown.

At the desk. Come, Mr. Tally-man, tally me bah-nah-nah. Daylight come and me wan' go home.

At the desk. All is discovered. Flee at once.

At the desk. Dude, where's my copy?

At the desk. Just hand over the copy and nobody gets hurt.

At the desk. Wake up and smell the coffins.

At the desk. The dilithium crystals cannae take much more strain.

At the desk. I cannot tell a lie; I edit with my little hatchet.

At the desk. Blindfold? Cigarette?