Erin Kurup, Editor & Idea Architect for Care-Fueled Entrepreneurs

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Project Profile: Experience Curating by Joel Zaslofsky

This post is part of my Project Profiles series. In it, I ask clients of mine about their experience editing digital products or webpages with me. You’ll hear about their project, what advice they’d give fellow small business owners thinking about working with an editor, and more. Read the rest of the series here.

Like Shanna, I’ve know Joel for a long time. He was one of my first clients, and we’ve worked on several projects together. Our most recent undertaking was his ebook, Experience Curating.

Meet Joel

Joel ZaslofskyJoel is the Chief Simplifier and Curator over at Value of Simple. He quit his cushy corporate job in March of 2012, two years after a powerful personal renaissance shook him awake. He now spends his time helping people simplify, organize, and be money wise. And when I say helping, I mean it — Joel is one of the kindest, most helpful people I know.

In addition to writing articles for his own site and plenty of others, Joel also hosts the Smart and Simple Matters podcast and recently co-organized the first-ever SimpleREV event, a community-building experience that brings together simple-living enthusiasts from around the world.

In short? Joel is a cool guy with a big heart and a serious love of (and knack for) connecting with others. He’s also an Excel nut. All of those traits shine through in Experience Curating.

Meet the Project: Experience Curating

Experience Curating is the title of Joel’s ebook, which is available through Amazon. It’s also the name of his particular brand of curating, which he lays out in the book. As Joel explains it, Experience Curating is “part mindset, part framework, and part process that empowers you to recognize, capture, organize, and share your most valuable moments.”

I love how Joel talks about why he wanted to write Experience Curating, so I’ll let him explain:

“I wanted to take something historically significant — curating — and apply a fresh, holistic approach to what has traditionally been boring and academic. To show readers that it’s worth spending a few minutes here or there archiving and organizing their most meaningful experiences because of its simplifying, self-worth, and income-generating potential, among other benefits. People are already curating, and they might as well have the mindset and toolkit to maximize it.

“I felt compelled to write the book because Experience Curating has had such a profound impact on my relationships, level of perceived expertise, confidence, and ability to help people in unexpected ways. I wanted other people to experience the fun and rewards of strategically curating their existence…and a book is still the best vehicle to spread your big idea.”

Sounds like a man on a mission, doesn’t he?

And now, over to Joel!

I asked Joel to answer a series of questions about his experience of the work we did together. Here’s what he had to say.

Why did you decide to take the plunge and work with me, specifically, on Experience Curating?

Well, you had already edited my investment course product, Start Investing with $100. So I knew firsthand how amazing you were at taking my seriously crappy words, structure, or concepts and making them shine brighter than a flood light. I only considered working with one other editor, but I was desperately hoping that you and I could come to an agreement on price, timeline, and some unconventional methods of collaborating (e.g. doing it in Word vs. a Google Doc). Fortunately, we did! And what a relief. I don’t want anyone touching my most important words except you. :)

What were the goals you had for Experience Curating when you came to me?

I didn’t write the book to make money. It was a strategic investment in gaining popularity and clout to get future paid speaking gigs, have people propose joint ventures with me (since being a published author apparently makes you so much more awesome-o), and a few other intangible benefits. In other words, this book on Experience Curating was really my first strategic and long-term product around the main themes of how I want to help people.

What wasn’t working when you came to me, and what were you hoping to get out of our work together? How did Experience Curating develop as our work progressed?

The list of what wasn’t working for me when I came to you with 36,000 poorly written and horribly structured words was a lot longer than what was working. I actually sent you a four-page Word document of what wasn’t working, broken up by general items (bad storytelling), structural issues (do I need sections?), and the writing itself (are my sentences too long?). I was hoping to get a serviceable book out of our work together, because I couldn’t imagine how my extremely rough draft could ever become something better than just that: serviceable.

Unsurprisingly (at least from my current perspective), those four months of pain, frustration, and incoherent late-night writing oozing with all my writing hang-ups or weaknesses actually turned into a book. Your recommendations about how to break the book up into three sections and put specific content in specific chapters convinced me that — with enough dedication and helpful friends — my book would actually be worth reading (and maybe even valuable for some people).

How would you describe what the back-and-forth between us was like for someone who’s never experienced it?

Like playing ping-pong with super oversized paddles. It felt like I had an unfair advantage over other writers every time I hit the ball (a.k.a. sent some text) back to you.

What was the hardest part of the editing process for you? How was the issue eventually resolved?

The hardest part was knowing where to stop. For example, I sweated a ton over the perfect word choice for a key section knowing full well it didn’t really matter what synonym I used for a given word. I also knew that I could do ten rounds of developmental editing with you and I still might not feel good about some parts of the book. That hurt, and I didn’t ever resolve that inner tension.

Experience Curating by Joel Zaslofsky (cover)

What part of the editing process was the most fun?

The jokes we passed back and forth in the margins. I felt like I was sitting next to a friend in second grade, quietly cracking silly jokes that nobody else would understand.

What feedback did you receive that surprised you?

That my first draft was actually coherent enough to turn into a legit book. I really thought there was a chance you would send it back to me saying, “Dude, this is unworkable.”

What did you come to understand about a developmental editor’s work that you didn’t know before?

That developmental editors are the key teammate in the book-writing process. Skimp on your book cover or your writing tools, but never split hairs with the book-writing partner that can easily make or break your book.

What did you learn through our work together that you’ll take forward into future projects?

There were so many subtleties of grammar, word choice, and structure that I’m now permanently better at because you took the time to point them out. You didn’t just say, “Nope. You didn’t do that right.” Instead, you told me, “You could improve here, and this is how I suggest doing it differently.”  

For example, you pointed out my over-reliance on “—” to emphasize a point and italicized text. I still use these devices, but I’m now picky about when because you helped me become self-aware of a crutch I was using (poorly).

Do you feel like you achieved your big vision with the end result? What effect are you hoping Experience Curating will have on readers and/or the world at large?

Oh, absolutely! I want it to get people to be more intentional about what they do as a result of their most meaningful experiences. To create a more systems- or process-oriented reader. And to get people to use Excel spreadsheets (a lot) more.

What advice would you pass along to other small business owners that you wish you’d known before you signed up to work with a developmental editor?

You need a developmental editor for any long-lasting, important piece of writing. Don’t question a highly-regarded developmental editor’s value. They are worth it every time (and probably worth 2-5x more than you think).

Want to check out the end result?

Experience Curating lives right here. You can also visit Joel at Value of Simple, his online home.

Photos courtesy of Joel Zaslofsky.

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