Medication and the Copyeditor

I’m trying to maintain a copyediting career and have just been diagnosed with ADHD. Now what?

A few people have recommended that I change careers. I understand where they are coming from: who wants to balance a  lack of executive function with the exquisitely regimented copyediting process on a daily basis? It turns out that I do.

And so I went the route of pharmacology and therapy. This means every working day I take a pill that hopefully will allow me to stay at my desk, work, and focus on the minutiae of the task before me. The medication is straight out amphetamines, which makes me nervous. It’s as if someone prescribed me cocaine to get my work done. But Andy Warhol, James Tiptree, Jr., and countless other famous and productive people, couldn’t all have been wrong. And my therapist assures me that as long as I’m taking it as prescribed and not selling it to sixteen year olds, that I’m probably OK.

And having ADHD has its benefits. One of the things that I love about editing (and I loved this about being a bookseller as well) is that every single piece of information I have in my beleaguered brain can be called into service. I may be editing a book about crocheting pink doilies, but there could be a reference to an Emily Dickinson poem and the rusty cogs of my memory creak to life and I can deliver an authoritative author query about dashes in Dickinson’s poem. This need for wide-ranging thought is something a copyeditor can get behind. Also, I have a high tolerance for contradictions, such as my driving need to set college departments such as “history” lower case combined with a house style that capitalizes everything. Thank you, ADHD.

Just don’t expect me to turn in my invoices on time.



5 responses to “Medication and the Copyeditor

  1. “forgetting phone number while dialing” – I think I’ve just self diagnosed as having “lack of executive function”.

    PS – My email to you keeps bouncing back? Can you send me one and I’ll hit reply?

  2. Pingback: Writing and Therapy | Fangs and Clause

  3. I also have ADHD, a severe case. I live on disability and have been fortunate enough to publish a few things including some academic papers. However, I would like to do something to bolster my meager income, but I am deeply concerned that it would hold my attention, an attention which is also forever divided with private research.

    How does someone with ADHD get started with copyediting (specifically academic), and would I be too scatterbrained to endure it?

    • One of the ADHD-friendly things about editing is that your projects always change. Checklists, routines, and freedom (a program that kicks me off the Internet) help me through boring projects.

      I would try to find a class, if possible. You can also read “The Copyeditors Handbook” by Amy Einsohn. Both resources can take you from being good at words to looking for things copyeditors look for. (A class might be easier because it forces you to do all the reading?)

      You might look into academic editing, which is a little less niggling than copyediting; and there are a ton of people who need help finishing their dissertation, turning dissertations into books, getting articles into print, etc. Also, join the Editorial Freelancer’s Association, because they have a job list. Or if funds are limited, try the copyediting listserv (through Indiana Univ, can’t quite think of the exact title right now).

      Good luck!

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