Trudging Through January

I need to be honest with myself about something. It’s okay to not enjoy what you’re doing. It’s a valid way to feel, especially in January when sunlight is at a premium and the cold snaps suck the life out of your bones and soul.

The project I’m handling for work right now started out as okay. It was given to me in a rough state, and I had plenty of warning regarding its requirements and inflexible deadline. The editor asked specifically for me to handle it, which was flattering and confidence-boosting, and my copy chief gave me a general raise for the consistently excellent quality of my work (woo!) plus an extra project-specific raise because it was heavy and on a tight deadline. I went in very positively. And as the pages dragged on, I got more and more bogged down. I began to feel irritated with the author for not doing her work properly. And then as I hit the halfway point, that irritation bloomed into fully formed anger, and I started dragging my figurative heels. Working on it made me feel so negative that I found all sorts of ways to not work on it, which is unlike me. (Having to go the grocery store every day this week was not a way to avoid work; it was necessity because things weren’t being written on the list as they were needed, and while it gave me a bit of the break in the morning between dropping the kids off and coming home to work, it was still frustrating on another level.) I was having so much trouble that I couldn’t choose music to work to, which is a sign that something has gone very, very wrong indeed. Nothing worked.

I have to struggle with some inner tension about this. I don’t like not enjoying what I do. I take pride in my work, and I get seriously upset when others don’t. When sitting down to work became an instant trigger for anger, I needed to step back and think about what I was doing and how I was handling it. It’s my job to fix other people’s writing. If they did it right the first time, I would be out of that job. I was requested for this project because I am sensitive to an author’s reception of an edited manuscript. (Been there, done that, and apparently I am also naturally gentle and civil in my communication.) Part of my frustration is also stemming from how slow my pages-per-hour rate has been, because the manuscript needs so much work. I’m working hard and feeling like I’m getting nowhere, which is always guaranteed to tax my patience.

I know part of my tension is also coming from the weather. We’re suffering an incredibly bitter cold snap right now. The kids haven’t been able to play outside for a week, which means that the daily high temperature has been below -25 C for over a week now. Owlet is going through some kind of developmental phase where her own patience is being tested, and she’s flipping into tantrum mode so easily that we’re kind of taken aback, because it’s very unlike her to do that. Sparky is working on taking responsibility for bringing home the correct books and papers necessary to do his homework, and you can read between the lines there and extrapolate the frustration both of us are feeling about that.

So I have had to step back and disengage from my personal frustration about this project. I am here to help this person. Being angry about the uneven research and the vague, circuitous writing and incomplete sentences doesn’t help. It’s my job to turn lazy, vague writing into succinct, active prose that conveys information clearly to the reader. This is a non-fiction project (as my last three have been — hmm, that’s interesting; I edit fiction more quickly, I must remember that) so I’m doing a lot of fact-checking. That slows my pages-per-hour rate a lot.

I will put on yet another pot of tea, and get back to it, now that I feel a bit more grounded and on an even keel again. Sometimes I just need to write it out.

2 thoughts on “Trudging Through January

  1. Lu

    Like, my entire self rebels when I set out to do something I have to do but don’t want to. I hope it gets better. Maybe a reward system for you? For every five pages you finish (or chapter, whatever) you get a .. something?

    Reply
  2. Autumn Post author

    Lu, I’m at the point where I promise myself chocolate just to sit down at the desk! But it is rolling along now, and even though I’ll have to work over the weekend, it will be done and gone by bedtime on Monday night.

    Reply

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