Beating Boredom

As an editor who primarily works with nonfiction, I admit that I sometimes yawn at my desk. I believe my work is vital, but honestly, the material I find to edit can get pretty dry.

Earlier this year I was swapping chapters back and forth with a three-author team to whip the 2015 edition of Mastering Autodesk® Revit® MEP into shape. (Revit is an engineering software; MEP stands for Mechanical, Electrical, and Plumbing).


I know. Fascinating stuff, right?

Luckily I have a near-constant cartoon reel in my head. It includes everything from today’s Pickles strip to The Simpsons, and even some of the shuddering black-and-white classic Disney films like Steamboat Willie.

Classic Disney, in particular, comes in handy for editing a book on Autodesk® Revit® MEP.

You see, users of Revit software sometimes need to manipulate a .DWG file or save something in the .DWG format. So, when bumping up against this combination of letters in a chapter, my mind taps into the cartoon reel and says, “.DWG, that’s sort of like dawg. Dippy Dawg!” (Dippy Dawg is an earlier name for the Disney character Goofy.)

And in a twinkling, Dippy Dawg is happily paddling his way down the plumbing system that I re-create in my imagination as I read. If his canoe should arrive in rough water, such as an awkward aside that would work much better as a sidebar (in keeping with the series style), then I’m quite alert to make it a sidebar and query the author for approval.

Now, consider Figure 20.7. It’s a screen shot of the right-click menu that allows Dippy–er, the user–to select a tee or other type of pipe connector. But the caption that goes with the figure is way too long! I need to clip some words from that caption. No problem. Out of my mental cartoon reel pops Donald Duck with an ax to cut those extra words away like so much firewood.

Keeping my imagination stoked with these sorts of images really helps when editing material that’s outside my normal comfort zone but needs to be absolutely precise. Cartoons, fiction, kids, music, other interests…I find that integrating all of these into my mental mix tape while at work keeps me alert and interested even when the work gets, well, you know, sort of boring.