This morning, with fear-induced nausea in the depths of my stomach, I delivered the PDF of my very first REAL book, Gold Mines, Elephants and Foefie Slides: An Adventurous Weekend on the Garden Route, to the printers in Little Mowbray.
I’d spent most of Sunday afternoon, evening and night frantically re-reading the document and tweaking it, adding and deleting a few words here and there, trying to make the sentences flow more smoothly. I double-checked that the photos were all still aligned and that the captions hadn’t crossed over to the other side – or rather, the next page. That’s because Microsoft Word is annoyingly unpredictable when it comes to lengthy documents that contain photographs. I re-compiled the table of contents, the list of photographs, and the list of maps, just in case. Finally, I sent the whole document to CutePDF to be converted into a PDF.
Approximately 5 hours later, the PDF was ready. (I wish I knew why it took so freakin’ long, but it was probably because of the 40 high-resolution photographs.)
So I re-read it again.
And I discovered that I could have phrased some things more clearly and that some sentences were a little awkward. So I went back to tweaking and fine-tuning until my eyes were sore from exhaustion.
It was close to midnight when I sent the document to print to CutePDF once again.
When I got up this morning, there it was, waiting patiently for me to copy it to a flashdisk and deliver it to the printers.
Foolishly, I opened the file once more, skidded through it to make sure that all the pages were there…. and my eyes chanced upon a sentence that could definitely have been improved. Oh no.
But it would have to stay that way because I had run out of time. I had to submit the file to the printer this morning, to make sure that he had enough time to complete the job before Friday. And I needed the books by Friday at the latest, as I wanted to take them along on our imminent visit to the Garden Route.
So that is why I felt a tight bundle of nervous tension churning in my gut this morning:
Because the perfectionist inside of me was suddenly terrified that what I’d written wasn’t good enough. That I hadn’t put enough effort into it after all. That it would be littered with typos and grammatical misconstructions that would make my English teachers groan with despair. That strangers would point their fingers at me accusingly, “You can’t write!” That I’d end up with 50 copies of a book that no one would want to read, let alone buy. Or worse, that they’d bring it back to me, demanding their money back!
I do realise that all of this was paranoia induced by performance anxiety. But knowing what to call it doesn’t necessarily make the emotions go away.
However, I did learn an important lesson this weekend:
Editing and proofreading one’s own book can only take one so far. At some stage, it is invaluable, actually imperative, to hand one’s treasured creation over to a fresh set of eyes, preferably to someone who doesn’t get swept up in the flow of the story but retains a certain level of objectivity and professional detachment.
Ironically, that’s exactly what I’ve been telling ‘my’ students for years – I mean the students who come to me with their Masters and Doctoral dissertations so that I can read through them carefully before they submit the final draft to the critical eyes of their supervisors. Because I do know from experience that if you’re writing and rewriting something for weeks and weeks, you lose sight of the big picture. As they say, you can’t see the forest for the trees.
I guess I should sometimes listen to my own advice, hm?