My first job after college was editing at a small publishing company in Westport, Connecticut. After I married, I took time off to raise a family, go to grad school, and have a career in education. Forty-three years after that first editing job ended, I have decided to try my hand in that field again. I had business cards made and scouted around for a freelance editing job. When I was finally offered one, I was ecstatic.
Then my anxiety kicked in. The publisher said this project, a fiction manuscript, should end up being about 90,000 words. I started figuring out how long that will take me. And the more that I thought about it, the more anxious I became. I researched the copyediting standard for the average pages one could edit an hour. The limit seems to be ten. The average is six. Since I’ve been away from this for so many years, and I want to make sure I don’t miss anything, I’m figuring I will only be able to do five pages an hour. I also don’t want to work at it more than five hours a day because I have other responsibilities, and sitting in front of a computer for more than five hours a day would be bad for my back and my eyes.
After doing the math, I realized I would have to do more than five pages an hour and work more than five hours a day. Much more on both accounts. This project was overwhelming me, and the publisher hasn’t even sent it to me yet. In fact, it’s been keeping me awake at night.
All that changed yesterday when my husband and I went out to lunch. We were sitting outside on glider tables by the water at our favorite summer spot, Rudee’s. We had ordered iced tea and were waiting for our beer-battered shrimp to arrive. I was trying to focus on what my husband was saying, but my anxious mind was pulling me back to the enormous editing job.
All of a sudden, a thought occurred to me, and with a huge sigh of relief, I started laughing and took out my calculator.
“What’s so funny?” my husband asked.
“I don’t want to tell you because you will laugh at me.” Since I was already laughing at myself, I reconsidered. I told him about my anxiety over this impending editing job and how, by my calculations, it would take me 150 days if I edited ten pages an hour and worked ten-hour days. Then, in a rare moment of clarity, I just realized I was thinking about 90,000 words as 90,000 pages. Obviously, there is a huge difference! A page actually averages 250 words on a double-spaced page of type.
“I may not be in trouble after all.” I wiped my eyes, my laughter not subsiding. “By my new calculations, I can edit this manuscript in three or four weeks doing five pages an hour and working five-hour days.”
I thought my husband would share in my mirth, but he just stared at me and shook his head.
“It’s a good thing you aren’t editing a math book.”