Category Archives: Support

Dealing with the death of a client

In this post, Vanessa Wells reflects on what happened when one of her repeat indie clients died unexpectedly. The CIEP information team also give some practical tips for dealing with the death of a client.

Vanessa’s experience

I’ve been editing for a decade and last week had my first experience of the death of a client.

This fellow was a repeat client. He’d been nominated and shortlisted for awards for his excellent books. He was the type who paid literally within five minutes of receiving my invoice. He was thoughtful and appreciative of the editing process. In short, he was the ideal client.

I was going to edit his next novel shortly; he just wanted a few more weeks to tweak the manuscript. Meanwhile, I’d come down with Covid, and when I saw online the news of his death, I was gutted – perhaps made more emotional by feeling physically depleted but also because it was yet another good person gone: I’d lost a dear friend early on in the pandemic and a former student died by suicide this year. Aside from no longer having this great writer to work with, I started to wonder why his death hit me as it did.

The author–editor relationship

The longer I edit, the more I appreciate writers’ craft. I really am impressed with their abilities and, in those with perhaps less skill, their tenacity and courage. I don’t take lightly the idea that we are here to collaborate with authors, rather than rewrite their work as we see fit. What they produce deserves to be treated with respect, and how we interact with them and their text should be a safe space. Sometimes the vulnerability they reveal is shocking. There are projects where we are the first person to read what they have written. David Shannon wrote Howul while his wife thought he was watching footy every night in his den. So there can be a creative and intellectual intimacy with an editor that a writer doesn’t have with others. The more vulnerable the author, the more they are opening their heart to someone whose metaphorical red pen they fear. The trust they are placing in us to provide constructive suggestions can be immense.

Conversely, we might be the first person to validate their efforts. Perhaps their labour of love has been denigrated by others as just a hobby. We may be coaching someone who’s kept their desire to write a secret or an untried exercise for decades. The analogy to writers birthing their babies may be a bit hackneyed, but I’m very conscious of the midwifery role I play.

As a sensitive person, I know what it feels like to be corrected. I bear that in mind in the wording of my comments and suggested edits, regardless of whether my feedback is gently critical or laudatory (and usually it’s a delicate balance of the two). I often feel like I learned the dynamics of this from my twenty years of teaching, also moulded by my own student experience of both kind and mean teachers. We have the power to inspire or wound (be it as editors or just in everyday life), and sometimes we can discern something of our clients’ personalities from their first emails to us. A tentative little dance underlies their questions, which can make us feel sympathetic and perhaps already a little protective of them in the process they’re about to take on.

I think this special type of relationship is not common to many professions, and the resulting connection that is lost upon a client’s death can leave us feeling gutted.

Financial considerations and the future

A friend commented that my author’s death must have come as a financial blow, too – which it did. I hadn’t asked him for a non-refundable deposit as I knew how reliable and accommodating he was. (And, in fact, fate unexpectedly dropped a new indie client in my lap the same day.) But even if I had been more proactive about using my usual contractual practices with him, I certainly would never have kept the deposit. Perhaps if there were different circumstances with, say, a single author and an executor, I might consider pursuing my balance owing if I had (almost) finished an edit. But as an editor, I believe my business is as much about the writer as the text, and I would not be comfortable pursuing payment no holds barred.

I hope that one day my client’s wife will look me up in his email and offer to let me read his sequel. I appreciated him for his work, not the income. From what I’ve seen in social media posts about him since his death, he was widely admired for his character as much as his skill. I’m sorry to have lost him as a client, but I’m grateful for having had the opportunity to work on such excellent writing. Another loss during this difficult period, but another blessing to recognise in my career as an editor.

Blue skies, sir!

Pink blossom being blown from a tree in front of a blue sky

Practicalities: What to do if your client dies

If you are aware that your client has a terminal illness (you might, for example, be working on their memoirs), you should agree in writing the steps to take in the event of their death. This may cover who will contact you with news of their death, the proportion of the fee to be paid, and what to do with the manuscript.

You may, in fact, find it helpful to include such information in your contracts as a matter of course – and to include similar information for the client in the event of your own death or incapacity while you are working with them.

Be sensitive to the feelings of your client’s family and/or colleagues – and allow time for yourself to grieve, if necessary. Similarly, if you have only just found out that your client has died after chasing a response or asking for a new draft, try not to feel guilty if you think your approach seemed insensitive. You couldn’t be expected to know what had happened.

If you have completed the work and wish to be paid, you will need to be proactive. Again, try not to feel guilty – if you have completed the work and fulfilled your part of the contract, you have the right to be paid as part of the business transaction.

Corporate clients and publishers are likely to have accounts departments, which will be independent of your contact and have their own email address. Write to them, explaining the situation. They will use their internal processes to find out the status of your payment. For example, if your contact died before raising a purchase order, the accounts department should identify an appropriate colleague who can verify your work and raise the PO retrospectively.

For individual clients, such as self-publishing writers, the executor of their will is responsible for ensuring their debts are paid but this might take months or even years. You might feel it’s not worth pursuing and that it’s more prudent to write it off.

If you send out email newsletters or other forms of marketing, remove your client’s name from the mailing list immediately.

If your contact was a corporate or publishing client, and you wish to keep working for the organisation, find out who is covering their work or replacing them and politely introduce yourself. Outline some of the projects you’ve worked on for your client and the benefits your work brought. This is the same approach you might take if your contact had simply left the company.

About Vanessa Wells

Vanessa Wells is a fiction editor and an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She lives in London.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: clocks by Giallo, blossom by Recal Media, both on Pexels.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

How to network better

Laura Summers of BookMachine explores networking benefits, tips and more.

From small beginnings in 2010, starting as a group of colleagues coming together to talk about the book publishing industry, the BookMachine community has grown to become a global organisation. During this time I’ve met hundreds of editors and proofreaders. I remember some of them really well because they’ve stood out against the crowd by their ability to network.

Instead of simply telling me or anyone they’re networking with about themselves and leaving it at that, these professionals show their ‘interest’. They do this by asking insightful questions and aim to be the ‘interested’ person in each discussion or conversation they’re in.

Even if you’re not a networking fan, it’s one of the easiest ways to form connections that might lead to new opportunities. Thankfully, living in today’s digital world means we have online communities that make networking easier for all of us (introverts, extroverts and ambiverts!) to connect.

Not convinced that networking is for you? Here are three reasons to get started.

1.  Spread the word

If you’re a freelance editor or proofreader, networking is an essential way to let people know what you do. Having an up-to-date website is a great start, but to ensure that the right opportunities come your way, you need to connect with others and tell them specifically about what you can do for them.

Networking isn’t limited to talking with potential clients. When you network with other freelancers, along with gaining advice and friendships, you can create partnerships and offer your clients a better service. For example, if you are an editor you can partner with a copywriter to offer your clients more skills.

2.  Understand industry trends better

I read The Bookseller online daily, but there is still so much more to know about the industry. The more people you speak to and connect with, the more you understand current trends in the industry. This, in turn, gives you a deeper understanding of what’s important to your clients and their businesses.

Having more industry knowledge also gives you the added bonus of having more professional topics to talk about during meetings – whether you’re a freelancer or an in-house professional.

3.  Gain more confidence

This one is simple. The more you meet and talk to people, the easier it gets.

Convinced about networking but unsure where to begin?

Explore membership organisations

As well as using CIEP membership to connect with editors and proofreaders through virtual and in-person events and the CIEP forums, consider joining BookMachine’s vibrant community to interact and learn during mixers, virtual hangouts and in-person events. If you want to mix a bit of exercise with networking and check two things off your list at one go, you could even come for our ‘Walk & Talk’ events!

If you’re a publishing hopeful, perhaps in the early stages of your career, think about the Society of Young Publishers (SYP). Attending SYP events and conferences, signing up to be a member and applying for their mentorship programme can help you get your foot in the door and teach you how to network better. Since it’s a volunteer-run organisation, you can even get involved with their online and in-person events if you have something to offer.

Leverage social media

Whether it’s BookTok, Bookstagram or #BookTwitter, there are plenty of ways for you to find fellow publishing professionals and connect with them on social media. Following some of the most valuable and popular accounts within publishing can help keep you in the loop and give you the opportunity to join discussions, conversations and events.

When it comes to social media, don’t underestimate the power of hashtags and the ability to squeeze yourself into a conversation when possible. Try keeping an eye on (or follow) hashtags like #workinpublishing, #publishing and #joinbooks.

Five valuable publishing-related accounts to follow on Twitter: The CIEP; BookMachine; Publishers Association; The Publishing Post; BookBrunch.

Use LinkedIn wisely

When you connect with someone, send a note. Introduce yourself and include a few words about what you do and why you’re interested in connecting with them.

Twitter will cap your tweets at 280 characters, but on LinkedIn, there’s no such limit when you post. But the key is to keep your interactions short and sweet – people have limited attention spans and time when networking. The goal is to make yourself memorable and interesting within that short interaction.

Be helpful

Another useful way to stand out is to answer questions using advanced search. Both Twitter and LinkedIn have great search capabilities. Think about the questions you had when you started out. Or even questions you had two months ago. Search those questions and variations of them on these sites.

What you want is to be helpful to those in your industry and around you. Offer answers, insights, or even follow-up questions to make the discussion more interesting. Don’t worry about sharing your tips and secrets – collaborating and boosting others in your industry is an ideal way to start networking.

Step forward as a speaker

Another idea to network and simultaneously showcase your skills is to pitch yourself as a speaker or as part of a panel at any relevant event. Pitch ideas to event organisers and highlight your areas of expertise so they can introduce you and your work to a wide audience. You can find plenty of these events when you start following and interacting with publishing professionals and publishers on social media.

Have a positive attitude

Finally, networking may seem challenging but try to think about it in terms of building relationships, friendships and long-lasting connections. The more people you know and speak with, the better and easier it will be for you to find the right opportunities to help your career thrive. On a personal level, it’ll also boost confidence in your intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships.

Also, it’s easier once you get started – I promise!

About Laura Summers

Laura Summers is the Director of BookMachine, the fast-growing global Community and Creative Agency specialising in book publishing. Her mission is to provide every publishing professional with the knowledge, ideas and connections to help them to progress in their careers. Follow Laura on Twitter @LauraSummersNow. Connect with Laura on LinkedIn.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: maze by Susan Q Yin on Unsplash, networking meeting by Redmind Studio on Unsplash.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Preparing text for typesetters and designers

What’s the difference between a typesetter and a designer, and why does it matter? How should copyeditors prepare text for typesetting? In this post, Rich Cutler gives us a brief introduction to the world of typesetting and design.

The first thing to realise is that copyediting is a game of two halves: editing the content (language, style, fact-checking, consistency …) and preparing the copy for the publication process. Although modern copyediting has changed significantly this century, the latter task (copy preparation) remains vital for most published texts.

Second, copyeditors need to know that a typesetter and a designer are different beasts: ‘typesetter’ and ‘designer’ are not synonyms, though some designers can typeset, and some typesetters can design. The copyeditor should ask their client whether the copy will be going to a designer or a typesetter.

It helps to know the background and evolution of typesetting and design when preparing copy. The two professions are often lumped together but in actuality are very distinct and require different approaches by copyeditors.

A brief history of typesetting

The origins of typesetting lie in printing. Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionised book making in the 15th century by its use of movable and replaceable metal type, which allowed books for the first time to be made quickly and as multiple copies – previously, books were mostly painstakingly handwritten. Early printing houses employed people who arranged or ‘set’ these individual metal characters as words, lines, paragraphs and, finally, pages, ready to print on sheets of paper: these were compositors, later called typesetters.

Typesetting centres on two key principles: aesthetics and readability. A typesetter will arrange text and displayed material (such as illustrations and tables) on a page so that the eye is led naturally from one idea to the next, making sure that the context is conveyed at a glance through careful placement of the elements on a page (eg headings and line and paragraph breaks).

Typesetters are problem-solvers. The ideal layout is not always possible – the perfect placement of, say, an illustration in relation to the design and the sense of the text may result in unacceptable positioning of subsequent material – so compromises are needed to achieve a balance between readability and aesthetics. Authors, clients and proofreaders may grumble about the less-than-ideal location of a figure, but an experienced typesetter will have sound reasons for its placement.

Typesetting has always been a highly technical profession. During Gutenberg’s time and into the 20th century, pages were composed as mirror images of the printed pages by placing metal type with reversed characters in backwards order into a frame. Hot metal typesetting was replaced by a photographic technique – phototypesetting – in the mid-20th century, and a record of the text composed by the typesetter was stored as perforated paper tape. Typesetters were so skilful that they could interpret the patterns of punched holes in the tape as typographical characters and layout. Phototypesetting machines in the 1970s replaced this paper record with magnetic tape, but were yet to have screens allowing the typesetter to see what they were composing.

Preparing copy for a typesetter

Today, typesetting, like many professions, is done using computers and specialist typesetting software costing several thousands of pounds (the best known being Arbortext). The historically highly technical nature of typesetting is visible in Arbortext and its ilk, which focus on showing the operator the content of a page on screen rather than its actual appearance (see the screenshot) – headings, paragraphs, lists, etc, have arbitrary styles that simply differentiate these items from each other and bear no relationship to how they will appear in print (not unlike Microsoft Word in the early 1980s – before Windows existed!). All text items are assigned tags in a computer language (typically XML) that defines what the elements are – and a master definition file dictates what should be done with these elements, such as their appearance in print and online (which may differ), and whether certain elements are to be hidden in some versions (eg for particular markets).

Typesetters are therefore very computer literate, and are familiar with Microsoft Word, computer code, styles, tags, macros and so on.

So, if a copyeditor provides a typesetter with tagged text, a Word file using styles or even a Word file using local formatting rather than styles, the typesetter should have no difficulty producing proofs with the required layout and appearance.

If the copyeditor wants to make the typesetter very happy – and to reduce proof errors – the copyeditor should

  • remove all unwanted formatting and styles that have been applied to the text
  • use a tagging or styles scheme only (or perhaps a combination) to indicate appearance
  • provide a key to their scheme.

Additionally, the copyeditor should flag anything out of the ordinary or requiring a specific layout or appearance (unusual characters, alignment and indents in, say, a poem, illustrations that must appear together, etc). Using local formatting to indicate the appearance and layout of text for typesetting is not ideal because this unsystematic approach can be ambiguous and unclear.

How designers differ from typesetters

Adobe InDesign hasn’t yet been mentioned. It is a graphic design program, not a typesetting program. Although it can be used for typesetting, it is slow and inefficient compared with dedicated typesetting software like Arbortext. InDesign is aimed primarily at graphic designers: in particular, a breed of designer that appeared alongside phototypesetting.

A phototypesetting machine produced photographic paper with an image of text. This could be an entire laid-out page, which was used to make a printing plate. However, the pages of complex publications like magazines or newspapers were easier to create by typesetting blocks of unlaid text, cutting up this text and gluing it (along with illustrations) to a sheet of card. These hand-made pages were then sent to the printer. Graphic designers who did this job were called paste-up artists: they were skilled designers, but did not have the technical focus on type that defined typesetters.

The widespread adoption of computers in the 1980s led to the appearance of desktop publishing (DTP) software aimed at graphic designers working in publishing. DTP software was affordable and easy to use compared with typesetting software, and allowed designers to typeset publications themselves for the first time. The best-known DTP program today is Adobe InDesign.

DTP changed commercial typesetting forever – and divided typesetters into camps:

  • those whose lineage is printing
  • those with a graphic design background.

To better understand how designers approach page layout compared with typesetters, we need to know a bit about DTP programs: they are the digital equivalent of paste-up – text and illustrations are placed in frames, which can be resized and moved about a page; also, a page will print exactly the same as it appears on screen (not unlike today’s Microsoft Word). A designer’s focus is primarily on aesthetics and appearance, and not so much on the structure and function of text like a typesetter. Most designers therefore have a less technical approach to typesetting, and may not use or understand tags or Word styles – many prefer to copy and paste text into InDesign, to deliberately lose all styles and formatting, then manually reapply styles and formatting in InDesign.

All typesetters work in a similar way, but the same cannot be said for designers: the copyeditor needs to find out how the designer wants text prepared. Some designers may be happy with a tagging or styles scheme, others prefer to copy and paste and then manually apply formatting. Some designers doing the latter may be efficient at spotting and transferring formatting, others may be more hit and miss, so highlighting formatting such as italics and superscripts for them can help.

About Rich Cutler

Rich Cutler began in publishing as a desk editor for STM publishers – first at Pergamon Press, then Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. He later became a freelancer and co-owner of Helius – a business that has been providing bespoke services to publishers for three decades, including development editing, copyediting, proofreading, project management, illustration, graphic design and typesetting. Rich is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. He is also an occasional lexicographer, and helped to write the Collins English Dictionary and the Oxford Dictionary for Scientific Writers and Editors.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: letters by Jirreaux, printing press by Mari77, both on Pixabay, Arbortext by Rich Cutler.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Editing outside your experience

The Radical Copyeditor, Alex Kapitan, recently spoke to PEN, the Professional Editors Network, members and guests about how to be a radical copyeditor when editing language that describes the experiences of those outside our own life experiences. Nicholas Taylor shares his takeaways from the event.

The Radical Copyeditor’s seven principles for editing text

The Radical Copyeditor, Alex Kapitan, spoke to PEN, the Professional Editors Network, members and guests about how to be a radical copyeditor when editing language that describes the experiences of those outside of our own life experiences.

Whether it’s race, sexuality, gender, disability, religion or faith, socio-economic background or any of the other many ways we describe ourselves, as editors, we are going to come across texts that describe people who don’t share the same backgrounds and experiences as ourselves. As editors, we are going to come across language that describes those experiences and we need to edit that with sensitivity and awareness.

Being an editor is not about sticking to a set of arbitrary rules, Alex reminds us. It is about being sensitive to language that describes people and affirms their lives and backgrounds, being aware of the rules, where they came from and figuring out which ones to apply, in context. As editorial professionals, we should be considering who those rules serve, where they came from and their impact on marginalised communities. As we know, language is always evolving and as professionals, we should be aware of changes in usage, terminology and trends.

Alex told us about the effects of an author’s choice of words. Language has the ability to:

  • dehumanise,
  • pathologise and
  • invisibilise.

Dehumanising language causes people to look the other way when its targets are suffering, completely othering groups and erasing their voices from the conversation.

Pathologising language stigmatises people who have different experiences. The language used can make people feel that they are ‘wrong’ simply for having those backgrounds or lives and that their lives need to be fixed.

Invisibilising language takes the experiences of people, whether through appropriation or erasure, communicating the idea that a group of people no longer exist. All three of these are particularly problematic and are something that editors should be looking out for.

As always, we are reminded that context matters, but our primary concern should be to avoid harm. Caring for the readers, writers and ourselves is important, Alex reminded us.

Alex took us through seven principles for editing text.

1. Be appropriately specific

Using specific language to describe people, rather than awkward or inaccurate generalisations, is going to be more inclusive. For example, describing ‘LGBTQ+ people’ is not helpful if you are trying to talk about ‘same-sex couples’.

2. Avoid euphemisms

Using euphemisms suggests that the right language is ‘wrong’ or something to be avoided.

3. Counter dehumanising language

Avoid using adjectives as nouns or equating people with a label or condition.

4. Respect self-identification

If people use a certain language, term or phrase to describe themselves, use this. You should not edit this language to make it ‘correct’ if it’s the language they use.

5. Use gender-inclusive language

More than just correcting fireman and postman, use non-sexist, neutral language. Singular ‘they’ works for both those who use this as a pronoun and for more general cases, replacing ‘he/she’ constructions.

6. Be mindful of metaphor

The idea of blackness and darkness vs whiteness and lightness is well-known, especially in fiction, but this language has the power to reinforce stereotypes.

Hands in darkness holding a candle

7. Challenge imperialism

Alex spoke about this from the perspective of someone from the US, but more widely, editors need to challenge the ideas of a collective ‘we’ approach. Who does that ‘we’ exclude when we talk about that?

There are opportunities to develop a more conscious approach to language at every stage of the editing process, from developmental editing right through to proofreading. Whether we are editorial freelancers or in-house editors, we have opportunities to ensure that language is inclusive. Publishers and presses have responsibilities, too, Alex reminds us.

At the heart of this approach is care: care for the reader, the writer and for the editor. The focus should not be on avoiding ‘offence’ or ‘getting into trouble’ but on not causing harm. When we edit, particularly language and topics that fall outside of our own experiences as individuals, we need to be tuned in to the potential to cause harm.

Using conscious language requires a lifetime commitment. It isn’t going to happen overnight and we may find that it feels awkward or clumsy at first. But language is important and we should take the time to learn from others who have experiences outside of our own to fully understand how language works for them.


The CIEP produces resources to help editors and proofreaders. These EDI resources include:

Read about where the CIEP stands on EDI 


About Nicholas Taylor

Nicholas Taylor (he/him) is an editor, proofreader and occasional writer. He specialises in working with LGBTQ+ texts, both fiction and non-fiction, and works to make text more inclusive for the whole LGBTQ+ community. He is an Intermediate Member of the CIEP.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: hands by Anete Lusina on Pexels, candle by Myriams-Fotos on Pixaby.

Posted by Harriet Power, CIEP information commissioning editor.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP. 

The CPD in the work we do

In this post, Abi Saffrey thinks about the ways in which we develop our professional selves while doing the job we do – an often overlooked form of CPD.

This article considers:

  • Informal conversations and guidance
  • Seeing a task from a different perspective
  • Observing colleagues and peers
  • Procrastinating on the internet
  • Teaching others
  • Writing an article
  • Continuing professional development

It’s highly likely that most of the people reading this post have put some formal training on their professional development plan for 2022. I certainly have every intention of signing up for the CIEP’s Plain English for Editors online course, or perhaps the References one. I also have some of the Publishing Training Centre’s e-Learning modules to work through.

When building our development plans, we often dismiss or forget the informal learning that we do every day while working. There are so many ways to learn new skills, adapt current ones, deepen our understanding, broaden our experiences – these are perhaps harder to label than a training course, but equally important in keeping our careers, and businesses, on track.

Informal conversations and guidance

Whether working for an organisation or ourselves, we have networks of people that we talk to. In an office or via an instant messaging tool, we can ask colleagues quick questions, or perhaps jump on a video call to discuss an idea.

Even a more formal meeting can be a learning opportunity, not just about how to carry out a task but how to communicate about it, finance it or improve it.

For those of us who work at home alone, having conversations with peers can remind us of our professional sense of self, and I find that after one of those conversations, I’m more proactive and productive.

Seeing a task from a different perspective

It’s very easy to focus on how we race through a task that we do often, and I suspect we’re all a bit prone to forgetting the actions that sit around that task. With my editorial project management work, I can gain insights into how copyeditors and proofreaders work, into what designers and typesetters need to know, into the priorities of the publisher – and I can take that and apply it to my own editing or proofreading (as well as future project management).

Taking a step back and thinking holistically about a project can be informative and rewarding, remind us of the bigger picture, and perhaps help us identify areas for more formal CPD.

Observing colleagues and peers

This is easier when working in an office with someone, clearly. I learnt so much from those around me as an employee, and when working in a client’s office as a contractor.

I’m in an accountability group, and on one of our professional retreats we spent a session looking at how we’d edit different types of texts – we all had different approaches and talked about which approach worked best for each text. With a bit of planning, this could work well over a video call or even in an online chat forum.

Talking of online chat forums, the CIEP member forums are full of gems covering every aspect of editing and running an editing business.

Procrastinating on the internet

Twitter, hey? It’s a right time-sink. How about that Wordle game? At least you can only play it once a day, but then did you read the articles about how to get better at it?

This may be the wrong thing to say, BUT there is value in procrastinating on the internet. So many of us scold ourselves for spending a bit too long on social media platforms, but there are great things in among the pyramid scheme promotions, political despair and, of course, cats. There are relevant blog posts, discussions, contacts being made, creativity being sparked, unknown terminology being discovered, different approaches to the same problem and the worldwide #StetWalk movement.

Teaching others

Teaching someone else how to do something that we know how to do is a fabulous way to reinforce our own knowledge. It can help us to realise how much we do know, and often highlights what we still don’t know. There is a lot of value in rewinding our understanding and trying to build up that understanding in someone else. That word you use all the time? They don’t know it. Those who learn from us can ask questions that we might never have thought of, and finding out you didn’t know what you didn’t know will be a revelation.

Writing an article

Write about what you know. Tailoring an article to the intended audience is a skill, and writing has the same benefits as teaching. For editors, writing also has the added value of building empathy towards those whose words we work with. When this article comes back from its proofreader, I will be nervous about what corrections may have been made. And once this is published, I’ll wonder about what kind of reception it will have. Receiving feedback help us to better give feedback (and give better feedback).

Continuing professional development

The skills that we need change and evolve, as do the industries we work in. Let’s welcome informal professional development into our work lives, and acknowledge that which already exists. I’ve covered the kinds of learning I’ve benefited from throughout my career – share yours in the comments.

About Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey is an editorial project manager, copyeditor and the CIEP’s information director. In 2022, lots of her informal CPD will come from working with her CIEP Council and information team colleagues.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: snowdrop by Kiwihug; Toronto perspective by Nadine Shaabana, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Forum matters: The treasure in the CIEP forums and how to find it

There is precious metal in them thar forum messages, and sometimes you have to dig for it. So, before we highlight some of the gems, we’ll tell you how to use the unearthing tools. We cover:

  • How to mine the forums
  • Threads of pure gold
  • Daily updates
  • Occasional pupdates
  • Invaluable advice for fiction editors

How to mine the forums

First, fill a mug with your beverage of choice and relax in front of your screen. Select a forum to peruse, say SfEPLine, and click. You’ll see about 30 rows of alternating grey and white that highlight the separate posts. Top right above the rows is the forum page you are on (SfEPLine has 275 pages; Off topic has 89). You can click forwards and backwards to your heart’s content.

If there is a blue box on the left that says ‘New’, then it is a thread you haven’t read or posts have been added since you last opened it. If you click on the blue box you’ll be taken to the latest message you haven’t read while in the forums (although if you’ve been following a thread and receiving the emails, you will have).

Each row tells you the subject and the name of the original poster, and the date, time and name of the last person to add to the thread. Useful if you know that a particular person is always worth a read.

In the middle are two columns for Views and Posts. The former tells you how many folk have been attracted enough by the subject line to have a gander. The latter tells you how many have been sufficiently moved by the content to contribute a post. Once either of those numbers goes above a single digit you can bet it will be interesting; if it’s gone to three or more digits, then it is probably forum gold.

If you don’t feel like a thorough trawl to find subjects that pique your curiosity, then here are a few threads we think are fun.

Threads of pure gold

On 24 August 2017, Margaret Hunter thought it was time for ‘an invitation to get you [Lurkers] started with a (hopefully) non-threatening post’ to ‘Tell us how you first heard of the SfEP’. By 29 September the thread had attracted 66 posts and, to date, has had 1,170 views. The posts illustrate the diversity of our membership and the myriad routes there are to becoming an editing professional. ‘Lurkers – yes you – look in here.’

Also in August 2017, Sophie Playle had an invaluable idea: ‘Most newbies have a lot of the same questions, so I thought I’d collate some of the fantastic advice more established SfEP members have offered over the years. Here’s what I’ve come up with! I’m sure there’s much more to say on each topic, but hopefully this provides a good place to start.’ She then extracted some key posts on such topics as: how to find work; some good courses; and what to charge. The advice may be nearly four years old, but it is still sound – and useful – as confirmed by a thank you posted in February 2021. ‘Newbie FAQs and Collated Wisdom from SfEP Members’ has been made easy to find by being ‘stuck’ at the top of the Newbies forum, which explains its 3,896 views.

Daily updates

Two threads effortlessly gather new posts to stay on the first page of Off topic. The first is ‘Typo of the day’, a fount of hilarious examples of why our profession is justified, with 1,637 posts, umpteen attached files and nearly 18,000 views over the seven years since Michelle Bullock kicked it off with, ‘I thought it best to give him a wide birth’.

The second is ‘Wildlife distraction of the day’, which is a relative youngster, but a lovely breath of fresh air. Frances Cooper kicked it off in June 2020 with mention of a sparrowhawk, which attracted 206 posts and many pics for the over 2,000 readers.

Occasional pupdates

Pet lovers may want some time with gorgeous photos and general pet covetousness, in which case have a drool over ‘New puppy (for Wendy!)’. There are plenty of pics (dogs, cats, hedgehog and gecko) although only 31 posts, so perhaps it deserves more than its 192 views.

Invaluable advice for fiction editors

The specialist Fiction forum is a mineshaft full of nuggets for editors interested in the field. Perhaps one of the original 2016 posters on ‘How long does it take to edit a novel?’ might be surprised by their development, or otherwise, in terms of time versus income. Especially if they took the advice to start a spreadsheet.

Over to you to have a dig. If you find an old thread you think is still relevant and deserves reviving, then adding a post will bring it to the surface. We’ll all be enriched by the reminder.

This feature comes from the band of CIEP members who volunteer as forum moderators. You will only be able to access links to the posts if you’re a forum user and logged in. Find out how to register.

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: Gold by Lucas Benjamin; pups by Bharathi Kannan, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Six pieces of advice from runners to editors and proofreaders

Run On, the CIEP’s virtual running group, was founded on Facebook two years ago this week. We now have more than 70 members, who post pictures of the scenic backdrops to their runs – our members really do live in some stunning places, from Scotland to Switzerland, Hong Kong to Ecuador, Cornwall to Melbourne – and share running tips and stories, injury woes, and recommendations for listening as they pound the miles. The group contains fell runners, parkrunners, marathon runners, ultra runners, occasional runners, resting runners and retired runners, all of whom offer support and encouragement to each other. If you’re a member of the CIEP and a runner, why don’t you join us?

When an article by Ron Hogan on what writers could learn from runners came up on Jane Friedman’s website in June, Run On members were asked what editors and proofreaders could learn from runners. Their responses fell into six categories:

  1. Build slowly
  2. Take steps to clear your head
  3. Get enough rest
  4. Push through procrastination
  5. Seek a wider network
  6. Now and then, remind yourself why you do it

1. Build slowly

Many a runner has been caught out by training too much too early and ending up with an injury. One member counsels:

Building distance is not unlike growing your business/doing CPD: start off with modest goals and build slow and steady. A good training base for building experience is better than ‘shortcuts’/skipping the fundamentals.

2. Take steps to clear your head

If you’re seeking a breakthrough or inspiration in an area of your work, it makes sense to step away from your desk and do something else. The answer may well come to you in a different environment, particularly if you’re out in the fresh air:

I find running clears my mind and lets me work out problems. These could be related to editing, running my business or planning ahead. I usually run with music, but occasionally listen to the Editing Podcast too, which helps me solve some of these problems, or at least gets me thinking about them on my next run.

When I’m running, when I lose focus on my breath (I try to meditate on it while running), I allow my mind to drift to work issues and mull over what I’m currently editing/writing. I find I can sort through my thoughts on all kinds of issues in that space. It really clears my head for the day ahead.

3. Get enough rest

Few runners run every day. They know it can lead to injury and exhaustion. One Run On member observes:

Rest days are important for runners, and the same is true for editors, especially when your desk is at home seven days a week and the temptation is to keep working. Rest reduces the risk of exhaustion and burnout, and helps us come back to our work refreshed and enthusiastic. We may even work out/spot things we missed before the break. And just like runners may need to take a break because of injury, so editors need to listen to when their editing brain needs a break.

4. Push through procrastination

You’ve planned a run but a nice sit-down seems much more inviting. Just as runners sometimes have to force themselves out of the door, editors and proofreaders sometimes have to spur themselves on to that next chapter or paragraph. But, running or editing, the effort is always worth it.

There are days when I really don’t want to run at all, but I make myself do it because I know how good I’ll feel at the end of the run … a metaphor for pushing through moments of editing procrastination and being rewarded with a job well done, a load off our minds and a happy client in the end?

5. Seek a wider network

Even though runners often train on their own, they find that joining a real or virtual running group inspires them to carry on and offers support when they need it. The CIEP, and other professional groups, work in a similar way for editors and proofreaders.

Even though these are things we often do alone, online support and advice (and occasional real-life meetings) can make us feel part of something much bigger.

6. Now and then, remind yourself why you do it

If you’re a runner, the two comments below will make you itch to get your trainers on and head out. As editors and proofreaders we, too, need to be inspired by each other. Seek out sources of inspiration – such as training, conferences and other networking opportunities, podcasts, blogs, articles and books – so that you can return to work with new fire.

I typically listen to podcasts or music when I run, but when I really want to be in the moment, I unplug and mindfully notice everything around me: sounds, the movement of my body, the alignment of my posture, the smells in the air, the temperature … This attention to detail sharpens and kind of *empowers* my mind, and it reminds me that running is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one – l think editors owe the same level of awareness and mental fortitude to the work our clients give us.

There’s a comparison for me that’s something to do with the value of sustained/focused attention. When I’m running, I become hyper-aware – in a good sense – of my physical state: what’s hurting, what is or isn’t moving smoothly, what effect it has if I change gait or pace or running surface or any other detail. The result is a much greater feeling of control over and harmony with a body that often otherwise feels like it’s working against me due to my chronic condition. I’m doing a very in-depth developmental edit at the moment and there’s a parallel there, with how immersed you become and how that eventually gives you an instinctual feel for the right structure, tone, word choices etc.

Thank you to all the runners who so generously contributed their thoughts to this blog, and the wider membership of Run On who have made the group such a fun, supportive and inspiring place to be over the past two years.

About Run On

Run On, CIEP’s virtual running group, was founded on 13 June 2019. In autumn of that year, we had our inaugural run at the CIEP conference in Aston, Birmingham (pictured). We support CIEP runners through our Facebook Group page.

 

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: runner by sporlab on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Eight ways to optimise your CIEP membership upgrade

The CIEP’s Admissions Panel shares eight things that members can do to make their upgrade applications straightforward, and hopefully successful.

What the Admissions Panel needs from you

The CIEP’s membership structure, with its four grades, is one of our core member benefits. It’s designed to help you, our members – to enable you to show the world that you have verifiable experience and qualifications. It’s also designed to contribute to the stated purpose of our chartered Institute: to uphold and promote the highest of editorial standards.

The Admissions Panel, which assesses upgrading applications, may seem a rather shadowy entity. Except for the professional standards director, who chairs the Panel, not even the CIEP Council knows who its members are. Panel members never have direct contact with applicants – it is all done through the CIEP office – and the anonymity of applicants is rigorously upheld. If a Panel member thinks they might know who an applicant is, they withdraw from handling or discussing the application and it is dealt with by other Panel members.

The Panel has a dedicated forum where details of applications are discussed daily – for example, deciding how many training points to allocate to a course they have not encountered before. All upgrades that are refused must be discussed on the forum and the grounds for refusal agreed, and a second Panel member must check the application in detail.

The Admissions Panel is interested in core skills (copyediting and/or proofreading) – where and how you learned them, the experience you have in exercising them and (for the professional grades) what your clients thought of your work in using them. You should complete your application with this very much in mind. The detail on the website will guide you.

In the course of Panel discussions, certain issues arise repeatedly, and we’d like to clarify how you can help us with these, so that we can in turn help you. We so much appreciate it when you remember to do this or realise how helpful that is! Here are eight tips your Admissions Panel would like to share with you.

1. Approach the upgrade process as you would an editorial job

  • Understand the brief, do what’s asked and do it to a professional standard. This means you need to read the upgrade pages of the website carefully. That is your brief: all the instructions you need are there. It also means keeping your upgrade application confidential, just as you wouldn’t go on Twitter, for example, to discuss a job application.

2. Begin building your application early

  • You’ll have a much better chance of providing us with complete and accurate information if you add to your upgrade application as you proceed with your training and work experience, rather than trying to assemble all the information later on. Our system saves all the information as you enter it, and you can return to it, edit it and add to it as and when you like. Nobody will see your application until you decide it’s ready and submit it.
  • An important free toolkit to help you complete your upgrade is included in the members’ area. Under Going Solo Toolkit follow the business records link to find a suite of spreadsheets. As well as helping you to keep good records for your business, two of them in particular will keep you on the right lines when applying to upgrade, because they log the information the Panel needs. Fill in the work record and training and CPD spreadsheets, delete the green-headed columns that the Panel does not need to see, and upload them with your upgrade application. Sorted!

3. Know what the core skills are and make sure you have
them covered

  • Do you know the difference between the core skills and other editorial skills? The CIEP core skills are copyediting and proofreading, and they are fundamental to your upgrade. Look for the flagged courses in the list of examples of training courses in the members’ area of the website, under professional development.
  • If the course you want to know about is not on the examples list and you are unsure about points for particular training, contact the professional standards director to ask. They can also answer your queries about whether a client or employer is considered to be a publisher for the purposes of upgrading: that is, whether that client or employer can assess your work in terms of the editorial standards that the CIEP regards as essential.

4. Understand the requirements for your grade

  • All applications for the professional grades have to be supported by the three pillars of training, experience and reference(s). No one of these can make up for a shortfall in another, and if a pillar is missing your application will fall down.
  • For Intermediate membership, the importance the CIEP attaches to training as a basis for your career is reflected in the proportions of the minimum requirements: six training points to one experience point. At least four of these training points should be in the core skills.
  • For Professional membership, you need to show that you have a more extensive grounding in the core skills. You will probably also have done training in further editorial skills.
  • For Advanced Professional grade, you need to provide evidence of recent continuing professional development (CPD), in addition to your core skills training. To be considered for the topmost grade of CIEP membership you are expected to have had training that is more advanced. Continual acquisition of skills and knowledge is a mark of advanced professionalism. The Panel will take into consideration a variety of CPD, but it has to be recent – within the 36 months before the date of application.

5. List all your relevant training

  • Don’t assume that if you have listed extensive experience but little or no training the Panel will credit you with the necessary training points. You may have been trained on the job earlier in your career – if so, tell the Panel! The Panel can allocate training points to this if they have enough information about it. Who delivered it? When did it take place and how long did it go on? What did you learn? Did it involve being mentored? Was it assessed?
  • If you have gained a degree or diploma in publishing or journalism, or a related field, the Panel will be interested primarily in any editorial modules you have done, so do give details of what was covered in these modules.
  • Skills such as development editing, structural editing and editorial project management can be counted towards your upgrade, as long as you have enough evidence of the core skills too. Do list any training in these. If they form part of your work experience, indicate what proportion of your work was in these areas. The Panel will be able to allow a small proportion of the minimum hours for the grade to be from one of these activities.

6. Exclude irrelevant information

  • Any further information you give should be concise and relevant. Please don’t attach a discursive account of your career. If you need to give additional information, confine it to a paragraph or a list in the further information section of the form. Personal information is not relevant; if you include personal information, there is a danger it might identify you, which will hold up your upgrade as it will have to be transferred to another Panel member to assess.
  • Training or experience in translating, writing, teaching writing, teaching English, indexing, typesetting or marketing is not relevant to your upgrade so there is no point in listing details of these. Copyediting or proofreading your own work also cannot be counted.
  • Only training and work in copyediting and/or proofreading English (any variety) will count; training or work in other languages will not. This is because membership of the CIEP indicates to your prospective client or employer that you have attained a certain standard of competence in editing and/or proofreading English. If a training course is taught in a language other than English, the Panel cannot assess its content. And your experience of editing in a language other than English does not attest to your competence in editing English.

7. Present your upgrade documents well

  • It may seem a strange thing to have to say to editorial professionals – but do proofread your application! The Panel is often surprised at the errors and typos that come through on upgrade forms and uploaded documents. Remember that you can save your upgrade form and return to it as often as you like to check and edit it before you submit it. Remember, too, that your upgrade application is showcasing your professional competence.

8. The Panel will only ask for additional things from you if they
are necessary

  • If the office contacts you with a question from the Panel, it’s because they need to know the answer in order to give your upgrade the best chance to succeed.
  • If the Panel asks you to take the CIEP’s editorial test, it will be for a good reason. If you have an extensive work history for publishers but little or no formal training, you can demonstrate that you have a grasp of the core skills of copyediting and proofreading by passing the test. If you have worked only, or mainly, for organisations or individuals that
    are not considered to be publishers for the purposes of upgrading, you will be asked to take the test. The expertise of such clients or employers is not in copyediting or proofreading and they may not know what the professional standards are, but this work can still be
    counted for your upgrade if you can demonstrate – by passing the test – that you know
    what they are.
  • Of course, you don’t have to wait for the Panel to ask you to sit the test – you can do it before you apply and include the result on your form.

The professional approach and high standards that you bring to your work for your clients are equally relevant to your application to upgrade. Read all the information and instructions and use the tools provided to help you. Good luck!

If you’re preparing to upgrade your membership, don’t forget:

  1. Approach the upgrade process as you would an editorial job.
  2. Begin building your application early.
  3. Know what the core skills are and make sure you have them covered.
  4. Understand the requirements for your grade.
  5. List all your relevant training.
  6. Exclude irrelevant information.
  7. Present your upgrade documents well.
  8. The Panel will only ask for additional things from you if they are necessary.

Start your membership upgrade now

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: tiles by Andrew Ridley; Please stay on trail by Dan Gold, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

How to take care of yourself when you’re your own boss

Even when there isn’t a pandemic, if we run our own business we all need ways to take care of ourselves – mentally, physically and emotionally. In this post, Abi Saffrey brings together some suggestions that have been shared on the CIEP member forums.

CIEP members’ self-care ideas fall into these general categories:

  • time and taking breaks
  • meditation and expressing gratitude
  • food
  • hobbies
  • music
  • friends and partners
  • being outside
  • lockdown clichés

Time and taking breaks

My first thought when it comes to spending the right amount of time on the right things is ‘work–life balance’. I have several issues with that phrase: should there be the same amount of work as life? Surely work is part of life, not opposed to it? (I’m not a fan of the phrase ‘me time’ either.) Anyway, a key element in getting the day-to-day mix of activities ‘right’ is considering time. There is no magic formula, but we can learn by trial and error what works for us.

During the first pandemic lockdown, when my children weren’t able to go to school, I would get up earlier than my family and spend an hour in my office getting to grips with what I needed to do that day so that I could be more focused in the limited working time I would have later on in the day. It also gave me an hour on my own, which turned out to be incredibly important over those three or so months.

Taking regular breaks from work is good for our focus and our eyes, but it’s often easier said than done. One member has alarms set at particular points during the day to remind them to take a 20-minute break; others use the Pomodoro technique.

I force myself to walk away from my desk in the mid-afternoon and read a physical novel for 30 minutes or so for a bit of fun and to give my eyes a break from the screen.

Alarms can be used to force an end to the work day – it’s all too easy to think ‘oh just one more page/section/chapter’. Self-employed editors were well aware of the blurring of the work/home boundary before the pandemic changed office workers’ patterns.

Meditation and expressing gratitude

Several members have mentioned the benefits of meditation and mindfulness to replenish their stores of energy, focus and patience. Some use timers, some apps and others simple breathwork techniques.

One member mentioned spending 15 minutes at the end of the day talking about something positive from the day: it breaks the endless cycle of gloom that comes from the news and ends the day on a high note.

The thing I’ve been doing that has had a huge impact on my positivity is expressing gratitude  … for everything, really: blue skies or rain (we need it!), delicious morning coffee, the roof over our heads, the internet, clean water piped into our homes, electricity, central heating  … the list goes on and on. Even the worst of days has good things in it; you might have to look a little harder. I’ve got very good at finding the silver lining.

Food

Making a meal or baking something can provide focus and pride in the result, as well as the opportunity to share something with others.

Whenever I bake something (which isn’t often), I always give some of it to my elderly neighbour. Gives me an excuse to check in with her, and I always feel so happy that she enjoys my sweet treats!

Planning meals ahead can lessen the daily workload, but can also provide something to look forward to. My family created a four-week rolling menu, which took away the weekly stress of thinking of meals, but with a ‘wildcard’ entry each week there was potential for trying out new recipes (or getting a takeaway).

Under the first lockdown, my husband and I invented a lockdown cooking competition – every weekend we each challenge the other to cook something new and out of our comfort zone. It’s been a great way to actually use each of our collections of cookbooks instead of just admiring the lovely photos. We have a whole routine that has become incredibly important for my sanity because it is structured and focused, and gives me something to look forward to as well as be a challenge not just to cook but also source ingredients.

I batch-cook at the weekend so that, no matter how busy things get during the week, I have nice lunches to look forward to.

Hobbies

The pandemic lockdowns have enabled some people to start new hobbies, or spend more time on existing ones.

For the most part of our lockdown we weren’t permitted to travel more than 5 km from home. Some birders on Twitter had the idea of keeping a #Stage4LockdownList. I started noting every species I saw in my 5 km radius. It encouraged me to get exercise, to be in nature, to be mindful and to appreciate things in my local area that I had taken for granted. I hope this is a new habit that I’ll take with me. (I ended up with 27 birds on my list – not bad for a beginner.)

My regular activity is crochet. Almost daily! You could say I’m hooked  … Fortunately, my yarn stash is well stocked. Sometimes my cat tries to ‘help’, but his company is a delight and a guarantee of daily smiles and chortles.

I have enjoyed patchworking for the past few years but thought I would attempt to learn to crochet … I managed one evening of tying my fingers in knots before returning to my craft comfort zone.

Music

Listening and dancing to music can be a great stress reliever and soul lifter. Several members talked about missing live gigs or singing with their choir. I’ve invested in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones so I can get completely absorbed in what I’m listening to.

Music is always part of my day. I actually feel a bit unwell any day I don’t make music – or listen to someone else making music. Covid-19 has put the kibosh on lots of my musical activities. (Who knew that chamber music would become more dangerous than adventure sports?!) So I make sure to listen to great music. Here’s Thelonious Monk playing ‘Tea for Two’. I’ve listened to this four times today. And every time I do, it feels like an act of self-care.

I also find dancing and seeing live music a great stress release, so have missed those a lot. During lockdown, I’ve been going to an online disco on Friday nights (via Zoom) and watching a live DJ on Twitch every lunchtime. (I’ve even put it in my work calendar – although with a cryptic title, just in case I accidentally share it with a client one day!) It has really helped to feel part of those communities, and the music has helped me to process and release lockdown emotions.

Friends and partners

Seeing our friends and family is so important, and that’s been taken away from many of us over the past year. We’ve found new ways of communicating, and made the most of the times when we have been able to go for walks or coffees together.

I’ve been doing a fortnightly quiz with a group of friends. I don’t think we’ve ever seen so much of each other, actually, as we’re so scattered across the country.

Directly messaging particular friends can bring about that personal connection, in a very different way to posting more widely (and more generically) on social media platforms.

I’ve rekindled a friendship with an old friend. We now send each other silly, or supportive, WhatsApp messages almost every day. If either of us has a low moment, or needs to vent, we can reach out and share. We now also occasionally send each other surprise gifts by post (‘I saw this and thought of you’).

Being outside

From birdwatching to long walks, to tending the garden, to looking at the sky – time spent outside is never wasted when it comes to self-care. Even a walk in the pouring rain can bring with it joy (and the delight of dry, warm clothes afterwards).

I love walking anyway but I’ve made a conscious effort when I’m out now to notice something new or curious on each walk. It could be some particularly splendid fungi, or the birds, or a gnarly tree, or going down a different path for a change and seeing where I end up. Some walks have taken rather longer than planned to get me back to my starting point  …

Movement generally is good for our mental and physical health, so adding in the fresh air and maybe even some vitamin D from the sunshine makes getting outside a win–win when trying to look after ourselves. For several years, I have gone to outside bootcamps every week – when restrictions stopped these, the instructor moved online and I took my laptop into the garden (though the Wi-Fi issues and light glare made some sessions more tense than was ideal …)

I live at the bottom of a hill, and the newsagent is at the top. I force myself to walk up there every day to pick up the paper, then I spend half an hour reading it with a cup of coffee before I get back to work.

I check the forecast every morning to work out when the weather looks best, then intentionally structure my day around that. The rain radar is also useful – even on really bad days, there’s generally a break in the weather at some point. I always feel much brighter (and more productive) afterwards, even on the days when I really don’t want to go outside.

Lockdown clichés

I’ve turned into a complete lockdown cliché, having taken up sourdough and running!

It’s hardly a solution for everyone, but I can totally recommend getting a puppy.

We have two golden retrievers and we try to walk them every day. It’s great to get out into the fresh air and, c’mon, golden retrievers. They’re good for the soul. Doctors should write prescriptions for people to spend time with golden retrievers.

I’m also spending a lot of time growing my hair. I’m trying for an A C Grayling look, but most people think it’s more Doc Brown (from Back to the Future, not the rapper).

I’m also a bit of a lockdown cliché, as it’s walking and breadmaking for me.

Getting it right

There is no one right way of looking after ourselves that works for everyone. This post only covers the most popular themes that members have shared on the CIEP forums. How do you look after your wellbeing? Has it changed over the past year? Let us know in the comments below.

About Abi Saffrey

Abi Saffrey is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. A member of the CIEP’s information team, she coordinates this blog and edits Editorial Excellence, the Institute’s external newsletter.

Now she’s finished writing this blog post, she’s off for a walk.

 

About the CIEP

The Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP) is a non-profit body promoting excellence in English language editing. We set and demonstrate editorial standards, and we are a community, training hub and support network for editorial professionals – the people who work to make text accurate, clear and fit for purpose.

Find out more about:

 

Photo credits: crocuses by Aaron Burden; long-tailed tit by Andy Holmes, both on Unsplash.

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.

Reviving my editing business

By Louise Bolotin

Like many freelancers, I was hit hard by the pandemic. 2020 started well enough, including a huge two-month project for a Commission. But in the week before we went into lockdown last March, I ran into deep trouble. First, as businesses battened down their financial hatches, all the projects I’d had booked in up to mid-June were cancelled by my clients. And then the local weekly newspaper where I’d worked as their subeditor for several years rang to say they were laying me off. In the space of a few days, I lost 100% of my work. Utter despair and panic set in because after the final week of that lucrative Commission job, I had nothing – for the first time in 15 years of working for myself.

Normally I’d never admit this, but I was not alone. I heard countless similar tales from other freelancers. For a few weeks I seriously contemplated getting a supermarket job. I had bills to pay, after all. I even got as far as half-heartedly filling out some of an application form for one supermarket. But I reminded myself that I still wanted to be my own boss, rather than someone’s employee. So as the public clamoured to ‘build back better’, I resolved to do the same, as there was no point dwelling on what I’d lost.

Once the shock had settled, it was time to roll up my sleeves. Under lockdown, I had plenty of time to review what I needed to do to bring work back to me – I’d let a few things slide for a while because when you are busy you’re often too busy to do marketing essentials. I also thought about what I didn’t want so I could make the big decisions. One thing I definitely didn’t want was to commute again. I’d worked at the newspaper one day a week, sometimes two, but the prospect of sitting on a train for 45 minutes each way in the middle of a pandemic was now unthinkable.

Despite the prospect of no income for goodness knows how long, I pledged to do a minimum two things every day that might generate work, and I also felt I could afford to spend a bit to earn a bit as I qualified for the government’s SEISS grant.

First, it was time to invest in a new website and logo. My then website was 10 years old and looked dated and unprofessional. Within a few weeks of launching my new look, my site analytics were showing increased visits and enquiries.

Next, it was time to up my CPD. First in my sights was the CIEP’s Medical Editing course, something I’d planned to do for a while but not got round to. Under lockdown I had time to get cracking. I completed the course in October and then paid for a freelance directory entry on a specialist network with the aim of finding medcomms work. That is starting to pay off.

As a member of the National Union of Journalists I have access to a huge suite of free courses run by the Federation of Entertainment Unions. In April I joined their webinars on Cash Flow Planning and Freelance Finance to get a quick grip on loss of income. These helped ease some of the financial stress I was experiencing. I also did the FEU’s Grow Your Business via Email Marketing webinar in August – it was both useful and inspiring. Within days I’d opened a Mailchimp account and am now sending a monthly newsletter to my clients. Late last year, I attended the FEU’s course on goal-setting. I’d never done this before, but I set two goals for this year and I’m reviewing them every month. One was to find three new long-term contracts – two of them found me in December.

There were other things – signing up to some paid-for freelancing newsletters that signpost work opportunities and yet more webinars, and joining a Slack community for journalists that was hugely valuable in providing camaraderie and support for lockdown stress and mental health.

Among my ‘two things a day’ pledge, this was a good time to update my various directory entries, including my CIEP one. I polished my CV and opted to spend more time on LinkedIn engaging with colleagues. I scoured job sites most days to look for freelance work. I got commissioned by a national newspaper to write a feature on being separated from my husband under lockdown. My NUJ branch also hired me to update my training courses on the business of freelancing and run them for branch members on Zoom.

The hard labour paid off and work has come back – in November I was fully booked for the first time since lockdown. And I learned the following:

Resilience matters: I’ve always been strong, and have bounced back from some of my life’s most challenging situations. I drew on that in 2020 to rebuild my business, bank balance and sanity. Never underestimate the power of keeping going – you’ll get to where you want to be eventually.

Envy is pointless: I felt irrationally furious at some colleagues who were still busy. Why them? Why not me? Especially the ones who’d only just started freelancing. But who knew what trouble they too might be in? For all I knew, just because they seemed busy, it didn’t mean they too weren’t struggling. I felt better when I let go of the envy and focused on building back.

It’s OK to ask for help: I’m not great at this, but I did. I was honest on social media, in the forums of my professional bodies and to friends offline about being in a hole and needing work. This helped keep my spirits up and some CIEP colleagues were kind enough to put work my way. I have since given interviews on how freelancers were hit and what I did to get back on my feet. I hope that helped others.

Louise BolotinLouise Bolotin began her career in journalism, turning her attention to the editorial side after a decade. She still writes occasionally, but has been a freelance editor since 2005 and is an Advanced Professional Member of the CIEP. She specialises in working with companies on business documents, alongside copyediting a few books every year. An NUJ trainer on the business aspects of freelancing, she took her own advice when the pandemic struck.


Photo credits: empty train by Carl Nenzen Loven; small business fighting for survival by Gene Gallin on Unsplash

Posted by Abi Saffrey, CIEP blog coordinator.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of the CIEP.