Take a Break

Along the lines of taking a break, it’s so important to get up from your desk once in awhile. From the viewpoint of a writer who sits at a desk all day writing, editing and reading, getting up to take a break now and then not only is important for your mental well-being, it’s also important for your physical well-being.

People other than writers and editors sit at desks eight hours a day, and it’s important for them to get up and take a break as well.

After staring at a computer screen for hours on end, it’s easy to get tired eyes and even a headache. I even get “punchy” and stir crazy. Not to mention, sitting for so long takes its toll on a person’s body.

Think about it, you’re sitting in a small area all scunched up. And if you’re typing, that can have detrimental effects as well. Remember carpal tunnel syndrome? Throughout the years, there has been a movement to have ergonomically friendly workstations to help ease situations for office workers.

There now are ergonomically friendly chairs and keyboards. I use both. At first the ergonomic keyboard can be a bit difficult to adust to, but after awhile, it’s easy to see how the keyboard is easier on your arms and hands when you type. With carpal tunnel syndrome running rampant in the workplace, the keyboard truly helps. At least it has helped me.

With regard to the ergonomic chairs, it’s very important to sit correctly and have the correct posture when sitting at your desk and using a keyboard. It’s also pertinent to place your wrists and hands in the proper form to reduce the chance of carpal tunnel.

Getting up from your desk for a break is a smart idea. Take a couple minutes to stretch, walk around the building, or do whatever you need to do to take a much-needed breather. It always helps when you get back to your desk.  You’ll actually feel ready to jump back into your writing, or whatever work you do.

Reading and Writing

I write a lot, and I read a lot. Mainly it’s for work, my day job. But, in general, I just do a lot of reading and writing. And although I love both, after a while it can get to you. It gets to me. Day in and day out, I’m reading other people’s work, I’m editing other people’s work, and I’m writing my own stuff. So, it’s no wonder that there are times I don’t want to read, let alone look at another word.

One of my favorite things to do is to read, especially before bed. But with all the reading I’ve been doing lately at work, the last thing I want to do is read, even if it’s for pleasure. This doesn’t happen too often, but it happens … to all of us. And it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy what I do.

Although I chose my career because of my love of the written word, I tend to need a break. Whether staring at a computer screen or at an open book all day, words consume me sometimes. It’s not unusual from what I hear.

It doesn’t matter if I’ve been reading and writing copy or reporting on a story, sometimes I have to take a break and step back. I need to give myself some time and take a breather.

So, basically, no matter what you love, step back and take a break. You can find that when you come back to it, you’ll appreciate it much more.

Copywriting vs. Journalism

Back home in Phoenix, yes here in sunny Arizona, I’m currently writing copy at NextStudent. It’s a lot different from reporting and writing for magazines and newspapers. I needed a change after many years in journalism and turned to copywriting for the student loan funding company.

At NextStudent, I work with a team of highly qualified copywriters from different work backgrounds. Some were journalists and some did work in marketing or advertisting. Bringing us together to form the copywriting team at NextStudent was a great idea. There’s now a combined effort of different types of writing styles that blend well together. We’re all able to brainstorm and bring forth different ideas and ways of creating important copy to bring it to students and parents looking to fund a college education.

Speaking of college education, to me there’s nothing more important. In this day and age a college education helps in so many varied ways. It allows people to open their minds to new ideas, to learn new subjects, and to basically expand their horizons. It also helps people in the job market.

So my work here at NextStudent truly is different from previous writing and editing positions I had in New York. The deadlines are there, but different. The topic is different and geared toward a different audience: people looking to get to college, which is a good thing. And I get to work with others in a cool and oftentimes fun environment. I also don’t have to work until the wee hours of the morning, and that’s a huge plus.

Writing on Student Loans

I’ll stray a bit from the usual here. Since there is so much talk lately about student loan legislation, I just had to write about it. I don’t have any student loans at this point in my life. However, I know many people who still have outstanding loans. I also have friends with children getting ready to go off to college.

There’s a lot of legislation and proposed bills being talked about and how they are going to change the face of student loans and affordability for students. There’s talk about weeding out private student loan lenders and leaving the lending to those colleges in the Fedeal Direct Loan Program.

Well, how about that? I am not so sure that’s such a great idea. That takes out choice altogether and leaves students and their parents with one way to go. It does not enable people to get the best rates via benefits and incentives. It doesn’t give people a choice, period.

Maybe it doesn’t have an effect on me personally. But people I know and care about will be influenced by this, and it makes a huge difference in their lives. College is way more expensive than when I attended. Most people cannot afford to go to college without help via scholarships, grants and student loans. And with the high cost of college, people need a choice so that they have low rates and incentives that bring down rates even lower. Without these choices, we can have a big mess on our hands.

Sure, there are some higher-ups in government who have been talking about helping students, mainly low-income students, get to college and making college more affordable. However, are their new proposed bills really the answer?

No Respect on the Copy Desk

After working in New York at a publishing company as an editorial assistant for about six months, I finally was promoted to working on the copy desk, sometimes a thankless job. I learned so much though. I was eager to learn and find out the ins and outs of the world of the reporters, writers and editors. But I got more than I bargained for, which was a big plus. I learned how the magazine got put together: from story starts, art and layout to closing each issue and sending it to the printer.

I met everyone in just about every necessary department: editorial, art, production and sales. And by copyediting everyone’s work, I learned what to do and what NOT to do when writing my own stuff. It was a fabulous learning experience.

The problem was, and still is in many instances, that when you worked on the copy desk, oftentimes you were seen as low man on the totem pole. The reason: I’m not quite sure, especially since the people on the copy desk are extremely important for many reasons.

The copy desk employees make sure the stories are readable and make sense. There are great writers who can’t spell, and there are wonderful reporters who can’t put a story together to save their lives. The copy editor oftentimes saves them and their stories.

A good copy editor typically is a whiz at English grammar and can “fix” a train wreck of a story and make it look like great prose. Or that person can take a good story and make it better. This person also can help cut a story or lengthen one to fit the space alloted for it on a page. The people on the copy desk will lay out the story, add some relevant, cool or funky art to go with it, and then write a snappy, catchy headline.

Let’s not forget research. These overworked and underpaid workers also research facts and check to make sure words, people’s names and titles are correct. And they do it all under tight deadline pressure, only to be looked upon as underlings. However, if these people didn’t exist, newspapers and magazines and the like would be filled with a lot of gibberish and unprofessional looking pages.

So, let’s hear it for copy editors and the copy desk. These folks put in a lot of hard work, stay late, and don’t hear enough thank yous for helping all those writers and reporters look good!

It’s Cold and Ugly

Well, New York City is having a cold and ugly February. As I sit in my Phoenix office at NextStudent with the sun shining through the window and 70-degree temps, I don’t regret moving home. I’ve been reading and hearing from old friends about how cold it’s been in New York. It’s also gotten some snow. The temperatures are in the 20s, but the wind chill factor is bringing those temps down to the single digits. I do not miss it at all.

With the cold, snow and people, I remember what that means in New York, and it’s not good.

When it first snows anywhere, it’s a beautiful thing. Especially in New York. When it snows, it’s really the only time the city gets quiet. The sounds of the city become muffled and there’s beautiful snow falling. But it doesn’t last long.

If you put a huge city together with snow, tons of cars, buses and taxis and millions of people walking everywhere, you get a mess! And, it gets real ugly, real fast. Slush, mud, ice, wind, people bundled up so much that sometimes they barely resemble people.

People throughout the city look less happy, as they walk stiffly because they barely can move in their layers and bundled winter clothes. They also typically are rushing to get wherever, and get out of the cold.

This also is the time when people slip and fall and bad accidents happen. Ice on the sidewalks or under snow is the culprit. It’s pretty scary. So not only are people walking to get out of the cold, they are trying to walk so that they don’t have an accident.

Winters can be strange in New York City. You can have days when the weather is mild and sometimes even in the 60s or 70s one day. The next day the temperatures can drop to the 30s and snow starts falling. I could never get used to the wacky weather there.

Yeah, it gets hot here, but I don’t mind. I don’t have to worry about slipping on the ice or shoveling the snow.

Getting Around Town in New York City

Well, my words got around in New York, but how did I, and others who live there, get around and navigate throughout the city?

New York City, specifically the island of Manhattan, is a world unto itself. If you live there, you never have to leave; everything is right there at your fingertips. And getting from one place to another basically is easy because of all the different types of transportation that readily are available.

Yes, New York City is a hustling, bustling place. There are taxi cabs and city buses everywhere. There also is the subway system. The subway in New York probably is the best system in the world. It also doesn’t have the bad reputation that it did back in the 70s. Of course, no matter the transportation used, it always is wise to be cautious and safe.

No matter where you go in New York, there’s likely to either be a subway stop, bus or taxi cab nearby. The subway system is extremely intricate and detailed. When I first moved to New York, I had to have a subway map in order to navigate the system. It can be extremely confusing. And there’s nothing like getting on the wrong train or getting off at the wrong stop to ruin your day.

During rush hour, the subways also tend to be very packed. If you’re lucky you’ll get a seat; if not, you can stand for a while. Although efficient, there were many times I stood in a train for more than an hour due to some complication or delay. When you’re standing in a packed train of people wearing winter coats, it’s easy to get nauseous or feel like you want to pass out. Not to mention, sometimes the subway platforms are so packed that you have to wait for a couple full trains to pass before you even can get on a train!

The bus system in New York is comprehensive as well. If you don’t know the bus system or the routes and stops, you’ll get nowhere fast. There are bus route maps that I carried along with my subway maps. I never left home without them. Again, if it’s rush hour, you can forget about getting a seat on the bus, if you even get on one of them.

The taxi cab is in a class by itself. New York is filled with yellow taxis. Wherever you go, you’re likely to see a handful of taxis. And sometimes it’s pretty difficult to hail one. Rush hour again is the culprit. During this time, everyone is trying to hail a cab. I’ve seen people push people out of the way to steal a cab ride. It’s ruthless, and oftentimes not even worth it.

The feet are what I relied on after some time. Walking in New York is a treat, I have to say. Not many cities are “walking” cities, but New York is THE walking city. While walking in New York, times goes fast. Block after block there are things to see and lots of window shopping to do. I lived about 30 blocks from my first publishing company job, and one day I decided to walk to work. Not only was it a great workout, I also got to avoid the subway, bus and taxi mess. All those blocks may seem like a lot, but it really wasn’t at all. Sometimes I’d make it to work quicker than if I took the train or bus.

So, even though there are many transportation choices in New York City, my favorite was just plain walking. I didn’t have to deal with angry people rushing to get to work. Sure, there were other “walkers” on the sidewalks, but walking beat getting pushed in front of an oncoming taxi any day!