Attention to detail

OK I’ve had enough of talking about the negatives of having autistic traits, so I thought I’d start sharing some positives.

I have awesome attention to detail. Something that was picked up on by my art teacher during sketching classes, my Latin teacher when covering the finer points of grammar, and my physics teachers when running experiments and practising calculations.

There aren’t many jobs where people rate “attention to detail” over “social skills” – the bane of the autistic job interviewee’s life – but book editing is one.

I don’t like the labels “high functioning” versus “low functioning” when applied to autistic people; it minimises the struggles of one while ignoring the abilities of the other. You are allowed, however, to call me a high-functioning agoraphobic. That is a label I accept. I don’t know what on earth possessed me to think that I should try school teaching – it was before I realised just how many autistic traits I had and I was still believing that all my problems were all my own fault and I simply wasn’t trying hard enough and I just needed to pull myself together and be like everyone else. Going and working in huge secondary schools everyday with grouchy teenagers was a dumb idea. Fortunately I came to my senses and realised that needing a daily hit of nicotine to cope with my sky-rocketing anxiety was a sign that it was time for me to leave.

But, left to my own devices I would never leave the house. It’s safe here. And if I avoid the internet and no one burgles my house, no one can ever hurt me. Outside these four walls it’s a different matter. I do leave on my own sometimes: I go to the library and my ladies Bible study group. But that’s it. My husband makes me go out fairly regularly, but going somewhere with him is better than going alone.

There aren’t many employers that want to hire a social recluse for whom leaving the house may trigger a panic attack. There aren’t many decent jobs that (pre-pandemic) you can do from home. But having attention to detail and freaking out over meeting people are ideal traits for a stay-at-home freelance proofreader.

The only downside is that some people hire proofreaders and forget that we’re human and therefore imperfect and fallible. I’ve had some horrendously jerkish clients in my time. Fortunately I’ve been doing this long enough and am good enough at it that I don’t need to keep nasty clients around. But I always worry that a client may only be a good client because I’m dealing with the only nice employee and one day I’ll have to deal with someone else who treats me like dirt for not being perfect. (I’m prone enough to beating myself up for not being perfect, I don’t need other people to kick me when I’m already down – that’s just cruel.)

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