Thursday, 2 April 2009

My life as a freelance sub-editor

Keen followers of my waffling will know two things about me. Well, hopefully more than two, but they will include these two things. The first is that I've long advocated the idea of a government sponsered Take Your Friend to Work Day. In the US (at least, according to Arrested Development, and TV wouldn't lie to me), they have Take Your Daughter to Work Day. I figure kids suffer enough with having to go to work experience, why make them suffer more? But if we could go to our friend's job for the day, that would be like a holiday for us and it would, I think, be pretty interesting.

I listen to my friends talking about their jobs, and I nod like I know what they're talking about, but they all use a language I don't know which is specific to their office, and they discuss a cast of characters I've never met. Unless I'm being singularly stupid, I can only assume it's the same for my friends when I talk about my work. Don't panic, though... I am not, in the following extract, going to bore you all by describing the minutae of my day and telling you exactly what 'pull-up' or 'fitting' or 'tracking' mean (oft-used phrases of the sub-editor), I'm just going to have another moan (phew, I hear you all cry!). But I still thought I'd mention Take Your Friend to Work Day in the hopes some bored minor MP will read this one day and start it off.

Anyway, the second thing that anyone who listens to me open my yap for more than ten seconds learns is that I HATE FREELANCING.

I've been a freelance sub-editor for almost five years now, ever since I got (boo, hiss!) made redundant from a TV listings magazine run by a big evil corporation. I will name no names in case 'the man' gets me. Unlikely, that seems, but still. I was shaken and bothered hugely at the time by this redundancy. Much as my constant misery may disguise this fact, I've lead a pretty charmed life. Nice parents, good schools, no abuse, no hideous facial features, only a teensy little mental health issue which I think adds charm anyway... I am not the sort of person who gets made redundant! Surely, I thought, there must be some mistake.

But, no, apparently anyone can get the boot these days, myself included. Shortly afterwards, I realised that I hate sub-editing anyway (well, that's not quite true, I do actually quite enjoy the pedantry and pathetically superior feeling of going 'I think you'll find it's 'the group found their way,' not 'the group found its way' and so on on a regular basis - but I do hate the long, long periods of sitting around waiting for something that needs sub-editing to turn up, gazing blankly out the window and asking myself if this really is as good as it gets) so it really wasn't such a disaster. I promptly wrote a novel (Killing Benjamin, it's called, fact fans, and hopefully it'll be available in a book shop near you soon) and then, while waiting for a publishing deal, fame and fortune to land on my door step, decided I'd better think of an interim career I could embark upon that didn't make me want to pull my own fingernails out with misery.

Being a contrary so and so, the only thing I could think of was being a psychotherapist, which it turns out takes years and years of training. So that's what I'm training for. And in the mean time, I need money. And so I continue to sub-edit, only now it's on a freelance basis as no-one will give me a part-time job. And this brings us back to something I may have mentioned earlier, which is that I HATE FREELANCING.

It seems unfair. I know many people, both in the real world and the fictional one, who feel tied down by their steady jobs, who hate the monotony of going to the same place and seeing the same faces every day. They wish they had the nerve to go freelance or become a contractor. More money, they think... more variety! More autonomy! What could be wrong with that? Why hasn't life handed them what its saddled me with?

I want security. I want things to stay the same. If I had to eat the same sandwich for lunch every day for the rest of my life I'd be happy, as long as I could pick it (it would be avocado, mozzarella and salad on a baguette, in case you care). How did I end up going from place to place, talking to new people all the time and never ever really fully feeling like I know what's going on?

You know what I dream about sometimes? Having my own desk. My own desk and my own computer that stay the same every time I go to work. A desk that isn't the dumping ground for every else's used coffee cups. A computer screen that doesn't have a funny green glow going down a third of the screen, which gets shunted onto the freelance desk cos none of the permies will touch it. A chair that isn't broken and spewing stuffing. A mouse that doesn't agitate my RSI. Then I could leave some snacks and a spare pair of glasses in the drawer. I wouldn't have to carry a fork with me wherever I go with which to eat my pathetic little lunch, which spears my leg every time I sit down on the tube. Oh, the joy of my own desk!

I think perhaps the hardest thing of all is that I've been doing this sub-editing lark for almost a decade now. I know what I'm doing (well - for the most part. I am aware a missed out a couple of words in my first entry and I am shamed to my core as a result). And yet wherever I go, I'm treated as the new girl who doesn't know what's going on. It's not good for the soul.

However. Enough of this. There's only a few more months until I can start a new course, and then I'm gonna study full-time, and then I'll doubtless have a whole new set of things to complain about. So stay on the edges of your seats, there, readers!

1 comment:

  1. That's quite an interesting career change you're planning and I hope it works out for you.
    Life is more interesting when your finger is in several pies. I was a great pie-fingerer in my circus days.