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Freelance Editing: A Lifeboat for Those Living with Chronic Illness or Disability: Part 2

by Natalia Iwanek

Stethoscope next to a laptop on a white surface.

Photo by Negative Space from Pexels

On Tuesday, November 26, we published the first part of a feature on freelance editing as an option for people living with chronic illness or disability. This is the second and last part of that feature. To read Part 1, click here.

The editing community is incredibly diverse. I hope that by highlighting our varied experiences through the following two interviews, I will inspire editors to see how life-changing this career can be.

Jane (not her real name) is a freelance editor with a PhD in a highly specialized field. She describes living with a chronic illness, while freelance editing part-time and working part-time at a research job that sometimes involves writing and editing.

What made you get into editing? Was this a career goal or was it something you naturally gravitated toward over the years?

Editing is something I’ve done on the side since high school. I formalized my editing career as a business after I got laid off from a different job in 2013. Part of the reason why I continue to edit is that I enjoy it, but another reason is that, with my niche skills, it pays well per hour and with minimal effort compared to some other work that I could be doing.

In what ways, if at all, has your illness impacted your editing career? Have you had to overcome any barriers?

I have Crohn’s disease. Crohn’s is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks the digestive system and sometimes other organ systems as well. The medications I’ve been on for the past 15 years have kept most of the worst symptoms under control most of the time, but I still get sick frequently and unpredictably and also suffer from debilitating bouts of fatigue lasting from days to weeks, again at unpredictable intervals.

Crohn’s is a complete career killer. I was unable to pursue a career in academia because of the restrictions it put on my ability to do certain kinds of research (because of the immune-suppressing medications I’m on), to travel easily (because of my inflexible treatment schedule), and to obtain affordable health insurance anywhere other than Canada. (Health insurance for anyone other than full-time, tenure-track faculty often has a yearly cap at around what my medications cost per month.) I worked outside of academia for several years but had a succession of bad bosses who did not abide by the accommodations my doctors outlined. I was pressed to work more than I could handle, ended up on sick leave, and then was punished for it.

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Freelance Editing: A Lifeboat for Those Living with Chronic Illness or Disability: Part 1

by Natalia Iwanek

Call it a sixth sense or intuition but sometimes the human body is capable of warning us of impending danger. Although strange symptoms had plagued me for years, I simply attributed them to overwork or stress and continued with my regular routine. Unfortunately, January 25, 2017, was the start of my life-altering journey.

I woke up experiencing an unusually severe stiffness in my lower back. As the day progressed, I felt a sharp snap in my spine. The pain took my breath away. Subconsciously, I knew that something had changed deep within my body and that this was no ordinary injury. Thus began years of physiotherapy, acupuncture, hospital visits, and perplexed doctors who could not understand why my spine refused to heal.

I developed increasingly concerning symptoms, such as debilitating exhaustion, memory problems, and severe allergic reactions, but doctors assured me that this was normal for those with chronic pain.  Meanwhile, I rapidly lost weight and grew weaker daily.

The time had come to revaluate my future plans. I needed to finish my education and choose a flexible career path. What better career than editing for someone who reads voraciously and has a strong grasp of grammar?

Between appointments, work, and excruciating pain, I enrolled in Simon Fraser University’s Editing Certificate program, and returned to Athabasca University to finish the remaining credits of my degree. Both programs are highly recommended for those who require a flexible, non-traditional route for their education.

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Editors Unplugged: Get to know our panellists for Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music

Interviews conducted by Catherine Dorton.

Our popular monthly program meetings often feature a jam-packed agenda. We like to keep our introductions short, so you can hear more from our panellists and less from us! It’s hard to do justice to the incredible wealth of experience these guests bring to the table, so we are offering you a preview with this short Q&A beforehand. 

This month, we are honoured to be joined by Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen.

Photo of Ranjini George by Fred Loek for Mississauga News

Photo of Ranjini George by Fred Loek for Mississauga News

Ranjini George 

We hear you use a gong. What’s that for?

Sound is a wonderful way to centre oneself and move beyond the carousel of non-stop thoughts. It is a way to be present to the Now, the Present Moment. The gong is a way of coming home to oneself. I love the words of Zen master Thích Nhất Hạnh regarding the bell/gong: “Listen, listen to the sound of the bell that calls you back to your true home.”

Try this: If you walk by the lake, listen to the sound of the waves. If you’re taking a neighbourhood walk (yes, spring is here!), listen to the sound of the birds. Notice your breath. Feel your feet on the earth. Breathe. Be present.

Listen to the lovely bell chant offered by the Plum Village community.

Why do writers and editors need mindfulness training?

I think it’s not just writers or editors who need mindfulness training. I think mindfulness is something that can help anyone. We enter this life with our first breath and transition from it with our last. So, we always have our breath.

Mindfulness is a way of using our breath—it is a way of being awake to our lives. Mindfulness is a practice: it is a simple and profound way of creating peace in our hearts. In our work as editors or writers, mindfulness helps create focus and clarity. We can bring the energy of mindfulness into our home, our workplace, and the world.

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Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music

When: Thursday, March 28, 7:30–9:30 PM

Where: Room 1050, Earth Sciences Centre, 33 Willcocks St., University of Toronto

Important notice: This month’s program meeting will take place on Thursday, March 28, not on our usual date of the fourth Tuesday of the month. Please mark your calendars. The location is also different this month as we’re meeting at the University of Toronto (UofT). We’ll return to the Centre for Social Innovation (CSI) Spadina for our April 23 meeting on poetry editing.

Graphic with photos of three speakers at March 28 program meeting titled "Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music"

Sound Mind: A Celebration of Mindfulness and Mental Health through Fiction, Memoir, and Music is geared to helping cultural producers across a variety of fields (including writers, editors, visual artists, and musicians) learn about mental health challenges and adopt new strategies for wellness, mindfulness, and creativity. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in a mindfulness session at the beginning and end of this event.

This special event is a joint production of Editors Toronto; Canadian Authors–Toronto; and the Creative Writing Program at the School of Continuing Studies, University of Toronto.

Our featured guests this month are Ranjini George, Rebecca Higgins, and Erika Nielsen.

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Taming time

Lion tamer

A lion tamer at Bertram Mills Touring Circus, Ascot/Edward G Malindine/
Collection of National Media Museum/ CREATIVE COMMONS ATTRIBUTION-NONCOMMERCIAL-SHAREALIKE (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

By Jaye Marsh

Time management was a popular topic to start off the year for Editors Toronto branch meetings.

A full house of approximately 40 people greeted the guest panellists at our new venue. Thanks to Greg Ioannou, lifetime member of Editors Canada, the Toronto branch now meets at the Centre for Social Innovation, a lovely multimedia-capable space on Spadina Avenue near Queen Street West.

The evening’s program, held on September 26, was about “Time-management for busy editors.” Program chair Lee Parpart invited four panellists: Jennifer D. Foster, Jeanne McKane, Dr. Nicole Lyon Roccas, and Jayne S. Huhtanen.

Jennifer gave us a list of practical tips and guiding principles that work for her: knowing your needs, discipline, attitude, and creating the right space in which to work. She reviewed her unsuccessful experience with the Pomodoro technique (setting tasks and using timers); making lists; using a hard-copy calendar; the importance of checklists to relieve the memory banks; taking regular breaks; exercising; setting rewards; and learning to say no. At the end, Jennifer stressed the importance of surrounding herself with positive, kind people who are supportive and respectful of her and her work. The end result? A favourable effect on productivity, motivation, and efficiency. (more…)

Save your eyes! Tips to reduce computer-related eye strain

Monitor glare

By Michelle Waitzman

Working in front of a computer monitor all day, as most editors do, takes a toll on your eyes. Here are some tips on how to reduce the eye strain that can lead to fatigue, headaches, dry eyes, and loss of concentration.

Beware of Glare

Glare is caused by light reflecting off your monitor and into your eyes. It can come from your windows or from light fixtures and lamps. Glare makes it harder to read your documents, reduces contrast, and can reflect bright spots into your eyes causing you to squint. It’s best to reduce glare at the source, but if that isn’t possible you can purchase an anti-glare screen to attach to your monitor.

Glare from daylight can usually be fixed by moving your monitor to a better position. Your monitor should be perpendicular to the window in the room, so that the daylight hits it from the side. Placing your monitor in front of the window will cause the backlighting to be too strong, which makes your monitor appear dark. Placing your monitor across from the window will cause the most direct glare.

Even with the monitor angled correctly to the window, glare can be an issue when the sun is low in the sky. Curtains or blinds are the best way to control the amount of daylight entering the room. (more…)

Maintaining mental health while working in isolation

"Winter Isolation" by Carol Harrison

“Winter Isolation” by Carol Harrison

By Shara Love

There is little that I despise more than going out in crowds, especially at this time of year. With sub-zero temperatures, mounds of snow at every turn, and traffic everywhere, nothing sounds better to me than staying home and cozying up on a comfy sofa with a cup of coffee and a computer or a good book, while waiting for spring. Unfortunately, it behooves me to do otherwise. Winter may encourage my hermit-like behaviour, but I must not succumb to the negative side effects. My mental health and ability to function depend on it.

One of those negative side effects is seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a form of depression. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), up to 35 per cent of Canadians experience some level of seasonal depression. Of this percentage, seasonal depression affects roughly 80 per cent of women and 20 per cent of men. Knowing and raising awareness about this condition may help potential sufferers to take preventative action to dodge the blows of this debilitating mental disorder. (more…)