I’ve made a few; or, On Imperfection and Finding Mistakes Too Late in a Manuscript; or, Oops

Welp, I found a  mistake in my newly released chapbook. Oops.

I even sort of remember now what happened. In this chapbook I have poems, but also a running essay across the bottom of each page. I tried to, in some degree, have the sections of essay have some kind of reflection on the poem with which it shares the page. I think I took out a poem, then had to figure out how to rejigger the essay. But then I revised the essay, and needed to juggle the sections, but couldn’t figure out how to re-cut the sections effectively. So I set it aside to think about further, and stuck as a placeholder a copy of one of the sections.

And the brain being the ragged blanket it is, I never went back.

And in the processes of revision and proofreading, I never ended up reviewing the actual essay in one read-through from front to back, only in a page by page. Somehow it escaped me that one section of the essay is repeated twice.

It could be said that the repetition does serve as an emphasis on that particular passage, perhaps the most central passage of the essay. The shift of poem does add a slightly different coloration on each segment. That in itself is sort of interesting. Yeah, that’s it. I meant to do it that way.

Still, I feel very foolish, as it is such an incredibly obvious error. And I’m a professional proofreader! But, that said, my publisher didn’t find it either. Anyway. What is the lesson here?

Happily, my first response when I found it was to laugh. My second was to shrug. Oh well. Shit, as they say, happens.

I do know that after spending much time with a piece of work, especially a whole manuscript, a veil seems to lower over the thing. I can’t see the trees, can barely make out the forest. It seems a blur of what it has been, what it has become, what it might have been, what I perhaps had intended but since have forgotten. I can’t even answer questions about work after the veil has fallen. People ask me what I meant by things and I just make stuff up on the spot. At some point the work becomes no longer mine but something that has escaped into the world.

That’s why we need copyeditors and proofreaders. Long may they reign. Or rein, as the case may be, as in “in.” Sometimes rain, as in “on the parade.”

But how freeing it is not be upset by a mistake. I mean, I didn’t back over the neighbor’s cat. Nothing was injured or killed in the making of this mistake. This is less a mistake, in some perspective, as an imperfection. The stakes are not particularly high, here. I don’t think the Pulitzer Prize committee will even notice. This is not one of those errors that will haunt me in some 4:00 a.m. self-hatred session.  And believe me, I have made some of those kinds of mistakes. To be able to look at an error and think, well, look at you, being human, is a very nice thing. Mistakes are made. The book as a whole I think is interesting, diverting, creative. Not to mention the gorgeous cover. So. What’s a little imperfection among friends?

So there we are. Live and learn. Now read up.

4 thoughts on “I’ve made a few; or, On Imperfection and Finding Mistakes Too Late in a Manuscript; or, Oops

  1. “It could be said that the repetition does serve as an emphasis on that particular passage, perhaps the most central passage of the essay. ” Sure, I read it that way. I noticed it, thought it was purposeful. So shit happens, and sometimes flowers grow from the poop pile.

    I was trained as a proofreader, and believe you me, it is damned difficult to proofread one’s own work. You did a wonderful job. Pat on back, don’t be up at 4 am. Kudos.

    Liked by 1 person

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