SK and I have often debated whether compiling a column of readerly advice requires more or less effort than writing an answer yourself. Today in her live chat, Carolyn (who has been running these remixed columns all week while she was on vacation), tells us all about it:
Readers give advice: Just curious how much work is involved to create articles for when you’re on vacation. At first glance, it seems that copying and pasting someone else’s advice would be easy, but there’s artwork to be done, editing, not to mention all the sifting that occurs before you find a great piece of advice you want ot share. So I just wonder if creating these articles create double the work for you prior to your time off. Hope you had a good vacation!
Carolyn Hax: Thanks. Producing the reader-advice weeks is time-consuming, though not as involved as producing a week’s worth of columns. I try to set things aside for them as I read mail every day, so the sifting process involves going through the folder of comments that I’ve flagged. I look for different things–some I want to be provocative, even if I don’t necessarily agree with the writer; some I’ll choose just because they’re beautifully written or moving; some I choose because they bring something to the argument that wasn’t covered in a prior discussion of the issue.
Once I have the best candidates, then I edit them down for publication, as needed. Some I barely touch, some wind up being just one great paragraph from a much longer letter. I put these all in one word-processing file and send that file to Nick, who flags his favorites. Using (and very very rarely ignoring) his suggestions, I form them into seven columns and hope you’ll at least find them interesting.
Then I go on vacation, which in this case involved not going anywhere.