On Becoming an Expert

I just gave two hour-long presentations at the annual conference of the American Copy Editors Society. This year the good folks of ACES gathered in Pittsburgh.

This was my second time attending the conference, and my first as a presenter. Getting ready took up a surprising amount of time and mental energy. Emotional energy, too.

I’m not used to thinking of myself as an authority–certainly not a national authority–on any topic. But apparently, I am. I talked about stress reduction techniques for editors, and about editing language on disability and mental health.

Both talks went well. It was thrilling to get up in front of a supportive, like-minded crowd.

Anya Weber presenting at the 2015 ACES conference.

Presenting on stress reduction techniques at the ACES conference. Photo by Megan Huber.

ACES members come from journalism, book publishing, corporate, nonprofit, and beyond–but we’re all editors. More than once during the conference, attendees said to me, “These are my people.” It’s a joy to be surrounded by those who nerd out on similar topics.

If you have the chance to give a talk on any subject, take it! We all have so much knowledge to share. From the inside, we’re aware of the gaps in what we know. But even if we can impart one shiny fragment of knowledge to someone in our field, it’s worth the time and effort.

Editors, join ACES and come to the conference in Portland (Oregon) next year!

What Facebook and sugar have in common

Photo by It Is Elisa via Creative Commons.

Refined sugar is addictive. When I eat less of it, I feel calmer and happier. But then the siren song of the baklava, or the homemade pineapple upside-down cake, lures me back. And I eat sugar again.

And then my body craves it and demands more and more.

I’m never going to live a sugar-free life. I wouldn’t want to. The energy spike (before the fall), the pleasure that’s gone almost before I’ve tasted it–especially when I’m sharing with others, these are true joys and not ones I’m gonna phase out.

But I do want to minimize. Because I don’t like where the sugar roller coaster leaves me.

My Facebook cravings are like my sugar cravings. If I don’t go on for a while, I forget about it. I don’t want or need it.

But when I do go on, my heart rate picks up. I have a surge of joy to see that my friends are happy, are procreating, are vacationing. This is followed by a surge of jealousy, envy, and guilt at my jealousy and envy.

The solution to both of these dilemmas? Selective enjoyment.

When I was little, my mom told me not to stand in front of the open refrigerator door staring at what was inside. “First, choose what you want,” she said. “Then open the door and take it out. And then close the door. It saves energy.”

I’m trying to apply this principle to eating sugar and checking Facebook. I could use some extra energy.

Ideally, I’ll decide to bake a particular recipe, eat some of the resulting deliciousness, and bring the rest to work.

Or, again ideally, I’ll decide to check on what a particular friend is up to, send them a quick hello, and then hop off again.

We’re hard-wired like rats in the lab to be vulnerable to sugar and to social media.

Wandering the candy aisle, or wandering onto Facebook because I have 10 free minutes, both leave me feeling achy, sad, and lonely.

Which is an illusion. And not the kind I wish to cultivate.

Isn’t it strange how what we eat, and what we read, have powers beyond the caloric and the verbal?