Living fully / Spoonie Challenges / Working

Doing a Perfect Job with an Imperfect Brain

Yikes. This post is not easy for me to write because it could cause potential clients to question my competence. So, let me state up front that I’m good at my day job and I have witnesses who’ll back me up!

I am an editor. I take manuscripts from indie authors and sort out word clutter, grammatical errors, and repetition, applying writing standards to the best of my ability. Sometimes I pinch myself that I get paid to read stories! I’ve been really lucky so far to have worked on some great books.

In late 2016, SpAN contributor Robin Elizabeth encouraged me to hang out my editing shingle. I’d been having a difficult time getting contract work because all the opportunities offered to me had required a consultant at the client site, five days a week. I manage chronic fatigue and neuropathy. It’s really important that I work from my home office, which suits me ergonomically. Sometimes the commute to a location can wear me right out, or cause me intense pain. I have to travel using a service for people with disabilities and am sometimes the last person to be dropped off. Often in winter, a one-way trip would be two hours from home. So, I had no contract work for years. Thankfully, I listened to Robin and freelance editing suits me just fine!

One major complication with my disability is brain fog. This happens not only because of fatigue, but also from the barrage of pain signals walloping my brain. It can be really hard to concentrate at times. While with my own writing this wouldn’t be an issue, with editing it can be a serious problem. Sometimes I can’t recall what I already know. It’s like I cannot access the files in my mind. I’m supposed to be correcting manuscripts so they shine, but my head is immersed in a dense cloud.

I mitigate this by making sure I’m rested to the best of my ability when I sit down to my work. I also plan daily editing quotas, and let the client know in advance how long I’ll take to complete my end of things. I pace myself like anything. Even if I think I can edit a few more chapters, I stop. Fibromyalgia is not forgiving. Better to keep to the schedule and start the next day feeling rested. Another thing I do is surround myself with my Chicago Manual of Style and other key websites, to remind myself of the standards I know but forget in the moment. I’m not afraid to admit when I don’t remember something. That’s what reference material is there for!

This morning is a horrid 8/10 fatigue day, so please forgive any blips in this post. I’m going to lie down a bit after I publish it, eat a hearty lunch, then tackle a new manuscript this afternoon. I typically do an intense first pass, then a second read-through where I snag anything I might have missed. With this current project, I’ll also be able to go over the printer proof, which is a bonus.

I would love to zip through manuscripts so I can increase my clientele and income, but that wouldn’t do anyone any good. I’d rather present a job well-done and make my author happy, knowing I put my all into it.

No editor is 100% perfect. That’s why novels usually have a few of us assigned to the job. Even though being a lone editor on some projects has its pressures, I’m still up for the challenge. I can do it, within my parameters. I am disabled but not discouraged.

When I defy any stigmas about my ability—even the ones I put on myself—and complete an editing assignment, I feel great. Every day might be a bit rough, but I did a thing! Each book on my shelf or in my resumé is a trophy, metaphorically inscribed with

Cait Gordon
For Defeating Brain Fog

Keep fighting the good fight, my spoonie alphabet arrangers. You so got this.


Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon

Cait Gordon is originally from Verdun, Quebec, and has been living in the suburbs of Ottawa since 1998. She is the author of Life in the ’Cosm, a story about a little green guy who’s crushing on the female half of his two-headed colleague. She is currently working on its prequel called The Stealth Lovers, a rom-com military space opera. She worked for over two decades as a technical writer, publishing user guides about everything from software applications to airplane simulators. When she’s not writing, Cait edits manuscripts for indie authors and runs The Spoonie Authors Network, a blog whose contributors are writers with disabilities and/or chronic conditions.

A bit of a social media junkie, Cait on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. She also has an author website. If you need editing services, visit her biz website, Dynamic Canvas Inc.

6 thoughts on “Doing a Perfect Job with an Imperfect Brain

  1. Thanks for this candid piece, Cait. You wisely emphasize the importance of respecting the limits of our ability so we can do good work. This spoonie is at somewhat an impasse where physical limitations are concerned and I can’t get my screenplay read by the people who could get it produced, because I feel to exhausted to get out there and hustle. So, I blog, try to be of some use as I promote my first book with the means at my disposal. Oh, the frustrations of chronic illness!

    Bravo for defeating brain fog one day at a time. 🙂
    Let’s keep moving mountains…inch by inch. And when we’re not, that’s OK too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your feedback. Yes, it can be tough for sure. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed when my fog has affected my ability to hold a conversation, but then I remember I’m a spoonie warrior princess. It’s not easy fighting battles every day, but we weild the spoons we have and somehow make it work. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just blogged about this myself yesterday. It’s a special kind of hell when your job is with words and you develop a disability that affects your language and processing skills. It took me a while to work out ways to compensate, and it sounds like you’ve come up with your own. I get being hesitant to “out” yourself in case it costs you work, but it’s a rare individual who turns up to a job 100% focused and enthusiastic every single time. Finding ways to get the job done anyway is just part of being professional – disabled or no.

    Liked by 1 person

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