Thursday, December 18, 2014

Take Breaks; Make Better Books

I write this while perching on the outer edge of my remaining work hours before I throw all my remaining paid time off to the winds and celebrate the holidays far away from my Lerner desk. And I'm absolutely positive that the books I'm working on will turn out better as a result of my two-week hiatus. 

"How are we going to find pictures of sound?!?
I'm too sleep-deprived to approach this calmly!!!"
Why? Because we think better and produce better results if we let our brains relax from time to time. This applies to regular office hours as well as extended vacation periods. It's especially important for us editors. We're obsessive. We care a lot about our books. And we don't always know when to step back and take a deep breath. Everyone who works at Lerner knows an editor (or is an editor) who has finished editing a book at 1 a.m. on a Sunday, has forgotten to eat lunch while working on high-priority projects, or has lost sleep trying to figure out how to resolve the plot of a First Step Nonfiction book. 

And that's just the editors--the designers can take things to a whole new level. Seriously, we've all been there. And we all should spend less time there.

Aside from being unhealthy, these habits don't serve books well. I make more mistakes when I'm tired and hungry and harried. So from all angles, it's wiser to turn down the obsession dial. And the holiday season is an especially good time to start.

Here are some tried-and-true strategies that I use to refresh my thinking cap in the midst of book-making.
  • Go across the street and buy that bagel. Or that orange. Or that fancy herbal tea that's supposed to energize your soul. 
  • Tape a list of puns to the bathroom stall doors (if you're my colleague Kris) or (if you're not Kris but admire her), just read said puns when you have occasion to encounter them.
  • Take five minutes to enhance your office/cubicle decorations. A picture of an adorable baby sloth or of Benedict Cumberbatch wearing a party hat may not improve your focus, but it will improve your mood, and grumpy editing is nearly always bad editing. 
  • Chat with a coworker for a few minutes about something non-work-related. Baby sloths and Benedict Cumberbatch are favorite topics here. Oranges, too.
  • Spend a few minutes reading a book that you're not working on (at least not currently; published books you have worked on in the past are fair game). Be reassured by the solid existence of this book, its good quality, its finished-ness. Return to the grindstone knowing that your current books will someday share a shelf with the one you were just looking at.
My golden rule: chill out once in a while.
As the holidays approach, I wish everybody a relaxing and refreshing end of 2014 and an invigorating start to 2015. Here's to more oranges, more puns, and more good books in the new year.

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