On 30 December, on a slow news day (for me), I tweeted about clingfilm. The story behind the image goes that last summer we spent a week or so camping in Germany, and while we were there we bought some clingfilm for packed lunches. Now, I love Germany, and tend to travel around it in awe of all the things that are effortlessly better than they are at home … White lines on the road that are actually visible, even after dark (especially after dark). Immaculate forests filled with castles and beautifully maintained rambling routes. Cycle paths. Pavements that don’t trip you over if you don’t keep a constant eye on them as you tread. Shower heads that don’t fall apart in your hands. That kind of thing. So I was almost gratified to discover that actually, there was one thing that seemed to be worse – this particular brand of German clingfilm that didn’t cling satisfactorily to anything, even to itself, yet at the same time was so tough that merely trying to tear a piece off would edge the box it came in closer to total destruction.
We came home with about 73.5 metres of the stuff left. I instantly began a campaign for a trip to Waitrose to replace it, but my husband insisted that we do the right thing (for the environment, for the upholding of basic human morality) and work our way through it all before replacing it. On 30 December, after a whole term of packed lunches for two children – and I can tell you, every time we reached into the cupboard for the dreaded roll, it almost hurt – this was finally achieved.
It’s an insignificant thing, I’m aware, and @espirian joked that my piece of good news didn’t quite rescue the shambles of 2016. However, my subsequent comment that it might take many clingfilm moments to build significant positive momentum took root in my mind, and I began to wonder if I could in fact learn some lessons from the clingfilm. It being New Year, my thoughts are naturally turning to what I have achieved in the past twelve months and what I hope to do differently and better in the next twelve. Here’s what the clingfilm told me.
Persistence pays off
Sometimes, it feels like a particular project will never end. I like the work I do very much, but inevitably we all get hit by a tough assignment now and again, and things can drag on. At times like that it’s too easy to feel motivation ebb away, and worry that the business has taken a wrong turn and will never recover. In future, if this happens (with the best intentions in the world, it’s always possible), I will remind myself that just as we once came to the end of the clingfilm, I will reach the end of the project in question successfully, and very quickly it will be little more than a minor footnote in the history of my editorial business. The great thing about our job is that it is constantly evolving, and no working day, week, or year is ever quite the same. Onwards!
Little things can add up to big results
As I said, it would take a lot of clingfilm moments to add up to a truly exciting leap forward. But tiny triumphs are cumulative – just ask any termite, or coral polyp, if you don’t believe me. One of my business resolutions for 2017 is to carry out a direct marketing experiment to take my business in new directions. In the past few months I’ve noticed some changes on the client side of my business – some very welcome, others not so much. I know I need to respond to this, and now try to be proactive rather than reactive for my business to thrive – but if I think about the end goals I would like to achieve it can be overwhelming. So I need to break it down into a series of tiny clingfilm moments. I’m not going to attract fifteen new regular clients all at once with my current marketing strategy, and I don’t have the time or the budget to change this overnight. But I can make small changes, bit by bit, hour by hour, that will add up to that result over time. Small actions are cumulative.
Everything can be improved on
It looked like clingfilm, and the packet definitely said it was clingfilm. And yet, in certain essential ways, it was not clingfilm as I would understand it. It didn’t tear! It didn’t stick! In a similar way, anyone can call themselves an editor. I’ve been calling myself an editor for nearly nineteen years. But I know there are still ways I can improve as an editor. I’m made aware of them all the time, both by editors who have been practising longer than I have, and by editors who are new to the profession. If I am editorial clingfilm, now’s the time to reflect that I can always tear better, stick harder, and work to become the best clingfilm I can. With this in mind, CPD goals for this year will include continued reflection on how I can give better service to clients – both existing and new, an online course or two on top of attendance at the SfEP conference in September, and continued learning in my role as a mentor.
Liz Jones has worked as an editor in the publishing industry since 1998, and has been freelance since 2008. She tries to find meaning in the little things – but honestly, all that waffling on about clingfilm, and she doesn’t even make the sandwiches …