Can You Edit With a Headache?

There’s a familiar creeping pressure in my temples. Sometimes right, sometimes left, other times both. I try to ignore the sensation, but eventually I take off my glasses and increase the size of the type on the laptop screen to 150%. After reading the same line of copy five times, action becomes necessary.

Migraines have been a pain (pun intended) throughout my adult life. The worst ones lasted for days on end and no amount of over-the-counter pain medication or rest extinguished them. When working in corporate communications in my 20s to early 40s, I would soldier through the day in misery until collapsing at home.

Then I had a child at 42 and went freelance. And that posed a whole different set of issues, because a screaming toddler is not going comply with mommy’s desperate requests for quiet.

Then medical science provided much-needed help. In the 2010s, my primary doctor proscribed a new medication that puts the kibosh on my headache in fairly short order (one to three hours). A godsend, really.

And that brings us back to the question posed in the headline: Can you edit with a headache? You can try, but honestly, I don’t recommend it. You are not doing yourself or your clients any favors by attempting thorough and accurate editing and/or proofreading of copy with a pounding migraine. There will be mistakes, resulting in unhappy customers and possibly poor reviews.

Even with the medication, which I take at the first hint of discomfort, relief is not instantaneous. The headache resolves faster when I lie down in a darkened room after taking the meds (another perk of work-at-home freelancing). Then I can return to effectively editing and proofreading.

Self-care is important both personally and professionally. Acknowledging that you need downtime if a migraine is imminent is smart business practice, regardless of industry.

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