Writing life: being the bottleneck
When books get down to crunch time with a print deadline, it all shifts. I’m proofreading on an upcoming book, essentially the final set of eyes. This is something I am very capable at. If I may be permitted to preen just a bit, the author said: “OK, let’s get it over with: your proofreading work is stunning. Best I’ve ever seen. No qualifiers.” That felt kind of nice.
What it meant, in this case, was that a key (penultimate) chapter was on the way, after much health-hammering and sleep-starved labor by the author and editor, and as soon as it hit my inbox, I was on the clock. Now it’s all waiting on me. I was actually delighted by this, because:
- There had been an excellent chance it would happen in the middle of the night. And if that phone call came at 4 AM, I’d have to get up, put on coffee and get to work. Instead, it came at 4:18 PM.
- It was a chance to show off. On previous chapters, I’d had the luxury of multiple reads, wording suggestions, recasting, and relaxation. It was easy. This was not easy; I was on the clock.
In writing, as in any profession in which one takes pride, there are those moments: the moments where one is doing something most people just cannot do. They are what make most work worthwhile. For a lumber grader, it might be spotting the exact cuttings of shop lumber to reach a given grade, watching the inspector lay a skeptical tape measure on the board, and find that your eye from ten feet away was as good as if you’d had ten minutes to lay out sample templates of perfect dimension. In homemaking, it might be doing seven things at once and doing them all well. It is when one feels uniquely capable, achievement mixed with refined talent and skill. ‘And that’s why not everyone can do what I do’ moments are gratifying.
Got the chapter in at 7:32 PM. Turnaround: three hours, fourteen minutes. Bottleneck? Not for long.
- Posted in: Writing life