KOK Edit: Your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM)
KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) KOK Edit: your favorite copyeditor since 1984(SM) Katharine O'Moore Klopf

Monday, February 25, 2008

Choosing Work That Fits Our Neuroses

Part of today's chatter on one professional editors' e-mail list that I subscribe to has been on a fascinating topic: To what extent do we gravitate toward the work that fits our neuroses?

My take is that we do so to a huge extent. If you read the psychological literature, for example, there is a lot written about the wounded healer. Lots of people with caretaker personalities become psychologists and social workers. I'm a caretaker type, and if I hadn't ended up a copyeditor, my second profession choice would've been psychologist.

I can't breathe if I don't read—often—throughout the day. So what am I doing? Getting paid to read. I'm extremely detail-oriented. So what am I doing? Getting paid to fix problematic details in manuscripts. In my universe, things must be symmetrical, evenly paired. So what am I doing? Making sure that for every first-level head that carries subheads, there are at least two subheads.

And my cabinetmaker husband Ed and I have come to think that the majority of cabinetmakers have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) to some extent. Most cabinetmakers are partly in that profession because they can't take a lot of sitting still; they must always be in motion. Communicate with other cabinetmakers, with contractors, with clients? No way—that communication stuff is for those office types who enjoy producing reams of memos. Besides, there's no time to communicate—gotta get the work done, and yesterday!

Looking at our sons' personalities and talents as thus far revealed, Ed and I predict that the older one would make a great cabinetmaker and that the younger one would make a great copyeditor. My daughter inherited my caretaking tendencies; her master's degree is in social work.

What about you? Does your profession make good use of your neuroses?


Anonymous said...

I was sorry that thread moved off list; I'm not on CEL-O.

I like work that lets me get in a "flow" state for hours at a time: copyediting, sewing, library cataloging, PHP/CSS/HTML coding. Unfortunately, as a stay-at-home mom (I prefer "homemaker," but currently I'm not doing a lot of homemaking) I don't get long stretches of time to work on projects. It's very frustrating. My favorite jobs have all involved that kind of work; my least favorite jobs have had lots of interruptions.

I never really thought of that as my primary work requirement, but there it is. :-)

Unknown said...

You express it in a more contemporary way than I do. I've always said that, as a copyeditor, I have a career that makes productive use of all my character flaws. If there weren't people like me who have strong views on the serial comma and laugh at safety warnings on cleaning products ("If swallowed, get medical help immediately."), then normal people would have to worry about that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

Hope this isn't a repeat post! The Coast Guard fits my personality well. I guess that my predilection (or “neurosis”) for discipline and regimentation has carried over into my career choice. I like the fact that I never need to worry about what I’m going to wear the next day at work. I also like the fact that I’m occasionally able to go home feeling as if I’ve done something that has really made a difference. I get a kick out of the fact that I’m also paid to run three miles a day and stay in shape (of course that’s in addition to my other duties). I also like the very direct and no-nonsense manner in which business is conducted in the military…orders are given and followed, but responsibility and accountability is paramount. Shaving my head once a week is altogether normal for me (saves on haircut expenditures and very easy to maintain). Above all, I’ve always been something of a nomad, so moving every three to four years feels very natural (also helps the kids in terms of their overall adaptability…both of them have traveled very extensively and are far more sociable than other children their ages). Given all that, I doubt that I’d make for an especially good civilian. Seems odd because most of my relatives are generally “anti-authoritarian,” but guess I’m the exception to that rule ;-)


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Cool, Jim—it sounds as if you've found the perfect niche.

Stephanie E. said...

Because of time constraints, I've not been keeping up with the lists lately, so I'm glad you posted here. Copyediting fits some of my neuroses and interests perfectly but doesn't fit some of the others (I have a lot of them!) at all. I often get that can't-sit-still, must-be-physically-doing-or-creating-something itch too. In an ideal world, I'd be doing copyediting and writing work one-half of the time and something physical, hands-on, and/or outdoors the other half. There are several careers I'd love to spend time in. If money were no object, I'd have multiple unrelated degrees and do a little bit of a lot of things.

Imperatrix said...

I came over here to share this link with you:


About halfway down, he says something that is either a diss, or a compliment (I keep changing my mind, but I think it's really the former).

But look! It kind of fits with your post, too.

I have a great memory for little things (hmm, was this term capitalized in the previous chapter?, Didn't the author use a very similar turn of phrase 75 pages ago??) I use this skill daily in my copyediting.

Of course, it has been pointed out to me that this skill is detrimental to healthy human relationships (If you're remembering the off-hand comment a relative made 7 years ago, you accumulate a LOT of unnecessary baggage).

I like judil's take on it: copyediting makes productive use of my character flaws!

Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

Stephanie, I have no doubt that you're a Renaissance woman.

Imperatrix: OMG! Joel Stein must be told that Hillary Clinton is so not a copyeditor! But yeah, she is the smartest girl in the class, as we female copyeditors always are.

Stephanie E. said...

That's awfully kind of you. But I tend to think of it as just my inability to make up my damn mind. ;)

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