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It’s not uncommon to hear editors alluding to what they do as a kind of midwifery. Editors (for which read ‘copyeditors’ and ‘proofreaders’ throughout) help clients to ‘birth’ books – to bring them into the world in the healthiest and best-prepared state they can, with the minimum possible fuss, mess and pain. They support clients (parents), listening carefully to their desires for their book (birth plan) and doing their utmost to make those desires a reality. And they work diligently with other editorial professionals (doctors, nurses and other specialists) to ensure the service (care) they give to the client is comprehensive, appropriate and respectful. Wikipedia even says that part of the role of a copyeditor is ‘to midwife content’.

In contrast, my cousin Bryony is a real midwife – as in, she helps small humans into the world. A while back we were talking about her work, and she said this:

When you apply to a midwifery course at university, one of the worst things you can say is that you ‘love babies’.

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Lighthouse

Working as a freelancer means inhabiting a strange world of paradoxes:

We must be solid and grounded in our professional self-sufficiency but fluid in responding to our clients’ needs.

We must strive for stability but embrace the inevitability of change – both self-imposed and thrust upon us.

We must invest in building and refining our skillset even when we’re wondering where our next paying job will come from.

We must maintain scrupulous standards of professional accountability to our clients and suppliers even as we become lifelong friends with some of those same people.

We must work in competition with our fellow freelancers while nurturing each other and our joint community for the good of us all.

We must be experts without ever forgetting how little we know.

We must connect in our isolation.

In short, we must be flexible and adaptable. Always, onwards, adapting.

To an extent, this is an existential drive, almost evolutionary.… read the rest >>

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