How I Came To Be A Copy Editor.
I really love copy editing.
Recently I was reviewing different career stages of my life, before I was a copy editor. I’ve been a master hairstylist, an analytical chemist, a grad student, a luxury spa owner, and unemployed. (I know, I know. That IS one crazy list!) Do you know what I discovered? That every single thing I did, career-wise, was done, at least partially, for reasons other than just for me—at someone else’s encouragement, to be more appealing to a sweetheart, because it got me out of one city and into another, and on and on. For the past two decades, however, one thought continually ran through my mind: “If I could be anything I wanted to be, I’d be a public speaker or an editor.”
I started public speaking by accident a few years ago. I’ve always enjoyed getting up on a stage in front of an audience and sharing something I’m passionate about. I found myself accepting opportunities to give presentations on astronomy, my favorite hobby. I’ve been an amateur astronomer for about 25 years (that’s telescopes, not horoscopes) and I now speak once or twice a month at various events, fundraisers, schools, and science museums. I am an accidental public speaker. And I get paid for it.
Oddly enough, I became a copy editor by accident as well. Several years ago I offered to copy edit a friend’s book for him. I received his manuscript and corrected spelling errors, typos, and poor grammar. I didn’t know then that I should have also corrected the flow of sentences, ensured consistency of style and voice, and had a solid grip on punctuation, far more than I actually had at the time. Good thing my work was free back then. I really should have paid him for the eye-opening experience.
That led to another “copy edit” for another friend. Word started getting around. A local company who works with authors started passing manuscripts my way. At that point I realized I’d better improve my natural copy editing ability with technical skills in order to copy edit at a professional level. I backed up all the way to basic grammar, reviewing information I had learned many, many years before. I learned about restrictive and non-restrictive phrases, smart apostrophes, the difference between em-dashes, en-dashes, and hyphens, and when to use them. I got a rush learning something new that was old. I knew then that I could be a professional manuscript copy editor. So I decided to become one.
I continued to get referrals as I worked my way up the professional-level copy editor ladder. I have now been a professional free-lance manuscript copy editor since 2009, primarily focusing on light to heavy copy editing and final proofing. After two decades of wishing I could be a public speaker or a copy editor, I now do both. And I’m doing them for me. Just me. It has confirmed for me the idea that, once I decide to do something, everything becomes possible. Now I’m looking to move to Italy. Or Ecuador. Or Panama. Or…
6/23/15 update: Indeed, copyediting (and now developmental editing!) has changed my life. I am preparing to travel around the world for a year or so, taking my work with me. I start in November 2015 in Bali, plan to spend five months in Southeast Asia, then go from there. This career has literally opened the world to me!