There's a beautifully written essay by Melissa Holbrook Pierson in today's Salon about the pains and occasional pleasures of being a proofreader, the indispensable person who's paid (very poorly) to clean up writers' messes--or as Pierson puts it, "the literary equivalent of wiping the tables at Burger King." Like many in the word trade, I began my career on the proofreading desk, and I know firsthand the indomitable solidarity of the unsung and underpaid. I also know the deep satisfaction of setting a phrase aright and creating a tiny, artificial world of perfect spelling and punctuation.
Here's a snippet, but do read the whole piece. It's a gem.
...I love catching those little inconsistencies, love putting the point of my freshly sharpened red pencil on top of a comma that needs to be a semicolon, and inscribing the delete symbol, like the letter "S" with a flourish, that will herald the disappearance of anything it touches. This I do with care and precision, two qualities I rarely exemplify in any other part of my life, and here is where proofreading allows me to better myself. I become someone who gets things done. Someone with good handwriting. Someone who pays attention, with great focus, and lets nothing get by her.