We’ve all had that moment of pride when the book or the brochure arrives, still smelling of ink. And the next moment, when we open the book to discover the glaring error that has somehow managed to survive our eagle-eyed hunt, to live forever as testament to our failure. That moment is sent by the gods, a gift to remind us that perfection is not the point, after all.
I must repeat this. Perfection is not the point of editing. Even near-perfection is not the point. Accuracy, yes. Clarity, of course. And in the world of most editors, something even further removed from perfection. Sufficient for the day. Better than it was. But not flawlessness.
That’s good news and bad news. The good news is that the errors you spot immediately are seldom the ones that matter. The bad news? The error the reader spots immediately is often the one that matters most.
WHAT TO DO?
Practice emergency editing. Set a timer for 15 minutes, choose one battle, win it and move on.
- Article: “When perfectionism becomes a problem” (Boston Globe)
- Check out therapies for perfectionists, in books, magazines or online
- Essay: Jacques Barzun, “Behind the Blue Pencil: Censorship or Creeping Creativity?” On Writing, Editing, and Publishing: Essays Explicative and Hortatory