Typesetting and trust

A week and a half ago, on Easter Sunday, i completed my first full attempt at typesetting. The manuscript is now in the hands of proofreaders.

This project was meant to be a three-chapter practice exercise, but a friend of the Rabbit Room suggested an auction. It occurred to me that some people may be interested in a newly-typeset, hand-bound edition of The Princess and the Goblin, and if i was going to auction it, i may as well do the whole thing. This seems reasonable, and entirely in keeping with what one might expect from someone who calls Pete Peterson her Patronus, but of course it has cost more in both time and brain cells than i ever anticipated.

But done it is, and now i wait. Forsooth, it was something new to be asked “how do you want me to track comments?” and “what’s the timeline?” and to be met immediately with one typo and an exclamation: “i LOVE THE FONT!” What a joy and relief such comments were, and how glad i am to anticipate more of them! Because here is a truth: Creativity is not meant to be carried out alone. We need the eyes and minds and hearts of others. i have spent weeks staring at this document, making near-imperceptible adjustments, and can no longer see what i would as a proofreader for another publisher’s work. And here, here is another truth: We do better work when we submit to each other.

Now while those proofers are busy finding all the perceptible weirdnesses introduced by my imperceptible adjustments, i move on to other publishing tasks: Reviewing another manuscript. Arranging with artists for work they will contribute. Calculating how much paper i will need. Managing quarterly finances. Preparing book cloth. And while the work of bookbinding can be solitary, very little of the work of publishing is done in isolation. Much of it requires trust. It requires honesty, first with myself. In a dozen ways or more, i am still learning these things. i do not know how everything will come together.

In my mentoring this semester, trust has been the major theme. One aspect of this theme is learning to trust myself. And yet the paradox in this is that trusting myself is not the same as relying on myself. Leaning into my own experience is not counter to, but in fact requires, leaning into my own inexperience. Our strengths are often our weaknesses, and i must continue to ask myself whether i am acting in love or in fear. And yet my weaknesses, if i allow them, may be my strengths.

The night i finished that dratted typesetting project, i nearly gave up. i hit two snags in a row and did not know what to do, so i walked away. And then came a quiet voice in my spirit.

“Do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be beautiful?”

i do want to be perfect. i am happy to rail against German text critics who can’t see the poetry for the pattern, but for all that i am one of them. Can this also be a gift i bring to my work, to the author i serve, to our readers? I went back downstairs and let that voice lead me to a new way of seeing the snag that had snagged me. Within an hour the manuscript was done.

“Do you want to be perfect, or do you want to be beautiful?” i’ve got two manuscripts in play now, one with proofreaders and another awaiting a response to my editing. i’m new at all of this. And if i want to be perfect, i will be afraid—afraid to know how many typos i’ve left in, afraid to expose my inexperience, afraid to learn new skills or a new way of being. But if i want to be beautiful, i must instead embrace that inexperience and hold it up to the light. The light is also beautiful. And it is better, better by far to walk in love than in fear.

Publishing, like everything else, is just love-lessons.

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