I spent most of yesterday correcting the page-proofs of my new book and twitching with frustration. My electronic copy of the page-proofs is ‘read only’. I cannot type on it or make any alterations. Any mistakes have to be listed separately and sent to the publisher. It’s a process akin to listening to the ‘first edit’ of a CD once the producer has had his wicked way with all the different takes we recorded in the studio. As I listen to the assembled version, I often have new ideas about how to turn this or that phrase, but there’s nothing I can do about it. The recording session is finished and in the past.
Similarly, as I read my page-proofs yesterday I kept thinking of words I’d like to tweak, adjectives I could improve, things I’d like to say differently or not say at all. But those options were not available: my role at this stage was simply to notice typographical mistakes. When I work on a word document I’m an inveterate tweaker, constantly meddling with the choice of words, so it was a character-building exercise to have to go through a couple of hundred pages in fine detail without once being able to indulge my passion for tweaking.
Perhaps it was good for me. I had to take a deep breath and accept that it was no longer a work in progress: this was what I wrote. It may still be simmering in my mind, but the actual words may no longer dance about on the page. If I want to write something more, or other, I’ll have to do it somewhere else.