Life Won’t Wait

Life Won’t Wait is the title of the fourth album by Berkeley punk rock band Rancid; It’s also the title of the new book by Michael Essington.

Michael was a punk rocker in the early 80s, when punk was controversial. Polarizing. Going to see a punk show in Los Angeles back then meant the LAPD might also be in attendance. Life Won’t Wait isn’t particularly about punk rock but punk makes some guest appearances.
Last one to die
Michael and I had the same art class in ’81. I was a senior. He was a junior. For a punk, Mike was a respectful kid who didn’t have the “us or them” punk attitude. We talked music. I graduated in ’82 and afterward only ran into him once, around ’95.

I got in contact with him a few years ago via Facebook. He’d published Last One to Die, his first book, which is by turns a shocking, tragic and funny collection of stories.

One afternoon on Facebook, Mike posted that he’d lost his editor for Life Won’t Wait. I messaged him: “Send me the manuscript.” So, that’s how I ended up being the editing of the book. It’s a good read that brings to mind for me Charles Bukowski and Cameron Crowe.

Here’s a little taste:

As I was standing in line to pay I saw a guy walk into the market: tall, impeccably groomed and with movie star looks. I did a double-take when I realized it was Jeff Conaway.

So I did what most people do when they see a celebrity: Stare but try to hide it. Look, but don’t look. But in my head I was saying: “Fuckin’ A, it’s Kenickie!”

He walked into the middle of the store (between the cash registers and the food aisles), stopped, looked around in a circle and yelled “Where are the fucking corkscrews?”

The whole store went quiet and sort of looked at its collective feet.

He walked over to the wine department and looked around then strolled back to the center of the store and again yelled: “Where are the fucking corkscrews?”

When no one answered yet again, he yelled out: “Aww, fuck you guys!”

He walked back over to the wine department once more, looked around once more, found his corkscrew and then walked back to center of the store and got in line to pay. He put a couple of bottles of wine on the conveyor belt along with his beloved corkscrew, grabbed a bunch of “impulse” items (gum, M&M’s, etc.) and then paid.

As he was walking out the door, a homeless guy hit him up for some money. I paused for a second because Conaway was already agitated so I wasn’t sure what his reaction would be. To my surprise, he nodded to the guy, put his grocery bags down, fished through his pockets and pulled out a wad of cash. He peeled back a twenty, handed it to the guy, and said: “All right, have a good one.”

Then he got into his car and took off.

Life Won’t Wait is available on

Thanks for reading,


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Steve Wagner is a Los Angeles-based freelance copywriter and editor whose clients include American Songwriter magazine, The Hard Truth magazine, the public relations firm MWPR, in Burbank, CA and the diversity consulting organization Global Collaborations, Inc., in Houston, TX. If you are seeking a professional editor, contact him at swagner (at) writer-editor-etc (dot) com and he will be happy to talk with you about your project.



Editing a book is like tuning up an engine.

The greater percentage of people (including me) are at least somewhat aware of the things we know and don’t know.

For instance, cars: We pump the gas into the tank when the needle is on “E” and we take it for an oil change a couple times a year but what about all that stuff going on under the hood? Most people have no clue about engines, transmissions and the like. We drive around thinking about where we need to be, when we need to be there, singing along with the radio. We trust that the machinery will continue to operate and we hope that we have enough money to fix it when it doesn’t.

The same could be said of editing.

Most writers simply write. This is as it should be and is analogous to putting gas in the car’s tank and going for a ride. (This, by the way, is not a criticism but an observation.)

Some rewrite, just as some drivers replace their own worn-out windshield wiper blades and burnt-out turn signal bulbs.

Fewer yet edit their own work, just as fewer people overhaul their own transmissions.

There’s a reason for professional editors, just as there’s a reason for Aamco.* It’s two different skills and time has shown that editing is a necessary step the process that begins with the inception of your idea (book, website, press release, etc.) and ends with publication (and, hopefully, wild success).

You write because you need to. You have a passion to communicate. Or some how-to knowledge that would help people. Or your boss just told you to “Write the copy” or “Get the press release out.” You have dreams of a bestselling novel (or book of poetry?) or a world-class campaign roll-out. You have ideas.

Returning once more to our car analogy, most drivers don’t consider the sequence of events that brings about internal combustion and so it similarly is with with writers and writing.

There is nothing wrong with this. When one is writing, one should be concentrating not on editing but on writing, just as when one is driving, one should be concentrating not on the engine but on the road.

At the risk of “driving” the car analogy into the ground, I will say that one can certainly continue to drive a car for which the routine maintenance has been neglected but please don’t publish anything for which the routine review and correction (editing) has been likewise neglected.

Let me know if I can help you with this.

* For my non-U.S. readers, “Aamco” is a U.S. chain of transmission repair shops.

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Steve Wagner is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer-editor whose clients include the public relations firm MWPR, in Burbank, CA and the diversity consulting organization Global Collaborations, Inc., in Houston, TX. If you are seeking a professional editor, contact him at swagner (at) writer-editor-etc (dot) com and he will be happy to talk with you about your project.