Here are some of the work-related things I’m looking forward to in 2016. My business is firmly established (it turns eight next month), and I see this as a time of branching out to try new things, and continuing to stretch myself professionally.
- Prioritising work I enjoy, and that pays well.
In the years I have been freelancing, I have tended to focus on working for book publishers, specifically in the areas of trade non-fiction and education. As editors we hear a lot about the benefits (especially financial) of working for ‘non-publishers’ – businesses, agencies and self-publishers, for example – and I have had happy experiences working for them myself. However, I have also come to appreciate that one of the strengths of my own business is my ability to offer publishers long specialist experience (18 years in the industry) … it’s an area I know inside out. A few years ago I worried about the sustainability of continuing to work mainly in the publishing sector, but these days I choose to celebrate my client base and use my specific expertise as a selling point. In the areas I work in, the pay remains competitive and, as importantly, my job satisfaction is high.
- Writing more.
Lots of editors are also writers. In the last year or so I have been blogging regularly, as well as pursuing some personal creative writing projects when I have time. I find the discipline of writing for myself helps with editing work in a number of ways.
First, it forces me to think carefully about vocabulary. I find myself looking up words I assumed I knew to check that I am using them correctly. (This is especially pressing as most of the people who read what I write are also editors.) Writing for myself also helps me to think about the structure and rhythm of a piece of work, mine or otherwise.
I firmly believe that there is little place for ego in editing, or at least the kind I do. My own writing is a safe place where I can say roughly what I like, make my own style decisions and even have a bit of fun. I can exhaust what ego I have on these personal enterprises, and park it when I get started on a project for a client.
Writing about aspects of editorial and freelance practice (which tends to be more my thing than writing about grammar, say – the thought of which fills me with terror) forces me to confront my own practice. I can hardly offer up a piece of advice on how to handle a situation and then do the opposite, now can I?
Finally, a blog post or article can provide a virtual talking point. One of the things that keeps me going as a freelance editor is knowing that there are other editors out there going through exactly the same things as me. Periods of overwork; times of financial stress; appreciating lovely clients, and the not-so-lovely ones; frustration; moments of mad pedantry. I’m not much of a talker, but reaching out through the written word is a brilliant way to feel less isolated.
- Keeping up with CPD.
I believe a lot of CPD happens on the job (I wrote about it for the SfEP blog). However, I’ve got a few training plans for 2016, including the SfEP’s Editing for fiction professional development day, and hopefully the conference, too. I’ve been to the last three SfEP conferences, and have learnt so much each time – not to mention met a lovely group of people.
- Cultivating other interests.
I’ve recently started learning German in earnest. One of the things I find especially useful about learning a foreign language, beyond the ability to cope in another country without expecting everyone to speak English, is the insight it gives me into grammar. Being of a particular age (40), I am aware that the grammar I learnt at school in the UK was somewhat lacking, compared with that learnt by someone 20 years older, for example – or my husband, who went to school in Germany. It’s not an area I struggle with, perhaps because I read so much – but I can find it hard to describe or analyse grammar. Looking at the nuts and bolts of another language helps with this. It also provides new insights into vocabulary and etymology.
I try to keep up other interests, too: playing the trumpet; running. The trumpet has been rather quiet in recent months – which I am sure the neighbours don’t mind – but I do plan to dust it off this year. Both playing an instrument and running help to clear my mind of work worries in different ways, by either filling my mind with other thoughts, or more or less completely emptying it, respectively.
- Taking enough time off.
If there’s one thing I vow to do every year, it’s take time off at weekends, and plan for holidays. I’m much better at weekends than I used to be (or the children would complain), but I continue to find out the hard way that a holiday is no use at all if I have to work doubly hard in the month before and after it to make up for the financial implications of taking one. Perhaps 2016 will be the year in which I finally manage to fix this problem. (Mental note to start saving up now …)
Liz Jones has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She invites 2016 to bring it on.