Merciless, hands-off or amazing editor: ultimately you'll learn
I've had tons of editors over the years and, as cliche as it sounds, some were great and others atrocious. As a journalist, you're going to have to find a way to work with your editor, and most of it boils down to your attitude.
Whether good or bad, your editor is only going to get under your skin as much as you let it. Beyond that, editors are generally a good idea as you get a fresh pair of eyes on your work. You'll think your work is outstanding and exceptional until it reaches one of these types to look over it:
This editor won't get started on anything until the spelling is bulletproof and you've followed the style-guide. You'll forget a comma in the first line, and the copy will come back in an email with a comment like "please fix all punctuation, spelling, grammar and follow house-style." Wait a minute! Isn't that your job?
Yeah, well, you thought wrong. With this editor, expect your copy to keep bouncing back like a yo-yo. So, settle in, roll with the punches, and as you address the basics, things will start moving (slowly). By the time you're done with this editor, your nerves will be frayed but if you're lucky they morph into one of the other types along the way.
Herr Laisse Faire
"Looks great." That's the response after sending the copy back. Wow, you think, I'm amazing then you realize the editor barely looked at the copy and spot several errors.
Wait a minute, my editor would let this go through as is? You run with what you have and if you're lucky there's a sub that will do a final check. Running all the checks yourself forces you to question everything, suddenly nothing makes sense, and you send a revised and fixed version back to the editor.
"Looks great" is the response. As you sit there agonizing over the copy you build up enough courage to publish what you have, rely on the sub, find a colleague or read it out loud in the bathroom in front of the mirror (p.s. reading things out loud is a great way to spot errors!). Failing that, you secretly find that other editor.
This rare breed will take your copy, make necessary fixes by using the tracking tool so you can see the changes; they will write detailed notes in a separate email explaining significant changes to the wording and give you the space to decide if their decisions are right. This editor will discuss with you, go through your copy line by line to improve clarity, make it sharper and smooth it out to make it flow like poetry.
This editor is not only talented, but they bring out the best in you and your copy; believe in your ability to improve and care about your words and craft. Either that, or their people skills are exceptional, and they've found a way to brutalize your copy but be hideously nice about it. Maybe that's their genius?
No matter which editor you get, be happy you have some to look over your work, question your judgment, find those logic gaps, or force you to take another close look at your work. Each editor teaches you valuable lessons and the copy (and you) will improve. So, revel in their wisdom and save your frustrations for after work drinks or the gym.
Have clear and confident answers to these important questions before you pull the plug.
I made a conscious decision to quit my job as a full-time journalist two years ago. The thought of staying in a role that didn’t balance my family’s needs and was not helping me grow, scared me more than the unknown world of freelance and self-employment.
The reasons for quitting are plentiful and not everyone will agree with what you are doing or plan to do, but that’s okay. Tune out those voices and try to figure out what you want. Not any easy questions to answer (I’ve written about this here with some help on how to tackle it).
I decided to plan and control my exit and do it own my terms. It was not an easy decision and I quit a great-paying job that many journalists would die to have but deep reflection (some tears, heavy, early morning CrossFit workouts to decompress and meditation) revealed that my career was not moving in the right direction, so I gathered the courage to do something about it.
I have an awesome wife who supports me and both of us knew that other aspects of our life were in jeopardy if I continued the work I was doing. My health (physically and mentally), our relationship, my sanity and the strength of the relationship to my kids were all deteriorating in many respects. I did not want that.
We both felt I was ready to work independently and try something new. The kids certainly wouldn’t mind having one parent home more frequently.
Before quitting, here are the questions I took some time to answer and reflect on:
Those are tough questions to answer but essential. Your situation may demand a different set of questions but these are the ones that were important to me.
My decision was not taken in isolation as being married means you make decisions jointly by balancing the needs, desires, fears and wants of your partner. There are more questions that need to be answered, sure, but get those down that directly address your biggest fears and that will help inform your decision.
If, for example, I had identified that financially it would not have been possible to go freelance then I may have found a new job first and not chosen the freelance path.
Quitting a job is a messy affair and no amount of planning makes the transition easy. It’s been two years since going freelance and, what I can say for certain is that I don’t regret leaving full-time employment. I have a new and more complex playground of my own making but I now shoulder the full responsibility for what I am doing.
In many ways there is more weight to carry, in other ways an abundance of opportunity exists beyond what I imagined. The hope for a future of my choice lessens my worries on days when things look murky on the new mountain I have decided to climb.
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