For over a year in Japan, I earned a decent amount of money editing science manuscripts. Without the “tracking changes” function on Microsoft Word, I wouldn’t have been able to find an Internet-based editing job like that.
I applied for the job by fax and accepted the e-mail offer without speaking to anyone at the publishing company on the phone or going through a face-to-face interview. They e-mailed the manuscripts to me and paid me via bank-to-bank direct transfer. I only spoke to someone at the office when they owed me money.*
This week, I helped edit a manuscript for another former boss. Once again, I relied solely on MS Word. Since my printer is still in the box from our move to Vietnam, I didn’t even print out a hard copy.
Editing directly on the computer requires intense concentration; I had to take a break after every page. All the deletions, insertions, rearrangements, funky lines, and boxes were in blue and covered the manuscript like Pascal lines. On my second time through the manuscript, my brain was frazzled from doing some serious contortions. I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the authors to see their manuscript all electronically marked-up.
Despite the many benefits of being able to work online with colleagues around the world, I would still prefer to work together in the same physical environment. Working online is exhausting because it requires more imagination in the absence of spontaneous give-and-take. Also, I believe that moving towards a society where everyone telecommutes from their own home would reduce our humanity.
Of all the things I miss about working, bantering with smart people on a daily basis tops the list. Nowadays, I work in isolation. And I don’t like it.
*One of the drawbacks to this arrangement is having no accountability. By the time I quit, they still owed me several hundred dollars. Because I didn’t live in Tokyo or anywhere near and had never signed a real contract, I had no recourse except to refuse further editing assignments which they had the audacity to continue sending me.
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