Rendered Fat Content


Robert Lawson: The March of Progress (circa 1930-1931)
" … further tedious justification …"

I discovered what I always discover when I finally finished circling the spot and settled into reading the next of my "finished manuscripts." The first few pages proved awkward reading, but before I hit the fiftieth, I'd settled into the rhythm of the writing and caught myself almost enjoying the experience. The autobiographical element proved very attractive for me, for it enabled me to relive past experiences. The pieces were spare sketches but lifelike enough for me to recognize myself, or a part of myself, passing by before my eyes. Short of a mirror to peer into, what could possibly prove more diverting and interesting? The flow of the work, which I'd anticipated might prove choppy, wasn't. It seemed to pretty much work, though I'd need a book designer's eye to confirm this impression. I expected to find further excuses for not finishing the work, but I stuck to it instead, which left me feeling as though I'd opened up another department in my book producing operation. I was OpeningShop.

I have spoken here before about how I tend to catastrophize upcoming effort.
I seem to much more easily anticipate trouble than ease. I seem to always project difficulties upon every upcoming project and easily find justification for avoiding certain work, however essential. In this way, Proofreading manuscripts became a bane of my very existence. "Finished" ones backed up and remain clogged in a process I found easier to avoid than to engage in, at least until I engaged in it again. Then it seemed tolerable, then almost pleasurable. It remains tedious. No skimming's allowed, for I'm listening for voice and rhythm which demands that I read at the speed of the reader's experience. Speed reading's useless for proofing, which seems to demand some level of tedium. Indeed, each step in producing a finished manuscript should by all rights challenge one's patience and cannot be successfully rushed. One must simply buck up and engage, no excuses.

I remember in high school, working on the student newspaper. We employed a machine, I believe it was called a Justiwriter, to produce a punch tape transcription of each article. The punch tape would then somehow produce fully justified copy, that is, squared off to both left and right column edges. I remember working with scissors and rubber cement to dummy up the finished master which would then be duplicated. It amounted to extremely tedious magic, producing the appearance of a flawless product. Because writing remains one of those products with at least a one hundred percent probability of errors within it, it made sense to employ an extremely tedious process by which to bring it to market. We've seen, as more modern and streamlined forms of automations have taken over newspaper production, a dramatic increase in the number of errors published, perhaps because fewer eyes scan the material before it goes to press. Many have suggested that I switch from my rather backward FTP uploaded blog posts to some real time, web-resident alternative, but I revere the arcane steps needed to bring my posts to my public. The tedium probably improves the finial product. All that said, it's a lot of tedious work, no doubt about that.

Authoring involves much tedium. Running a one horse shop like mine means that the tedium is mine. I can either embrace it or go out of business. Focusing exclusively upon the writing might make the effort more exciting but it won't resolve the dilemma. There'll be no finished product without every process operating, including those I might find boring. But this one, this reading this next manuscript, turns out to be enlivening. Yes, it demands my full attention. I cannot listen to music while I'm doing it. It's alone work if not precisely lonely effort. I find (again) that I can do it! Like I learned with The Grand Refurbish, I suspect that just about the time I really find the rhythm of this effort, I'll be through it and on to some next steps. I also suspect that when I return to this step again, I'll face the resistance I felt this time, only to re-experience the realization that it's not nearly as bad as I'd imagined it would be, that it's even pleasing. I doubt that I'll ever manage to teach myself any different. I will get through the stages to production somehow, anyway.

I see more parts of my Authoring shop opening up. I cannot open everything all at once. I will need to open up my outreach operation, the one that produces queries and asks for assistance. I will be needing readers, volunteers to contribute their time to read and share their experiences, their discoveries, reading through the finished pieces. I'll need more courage, for as humbling as reading my own manuscript has proven to be, it's also ennobling, which, frankly, feels frightening. I suspect that moss, once it emerges from beneath its rock, finds the wide and desiccating world daunting. So many moving parts, so very much needing opening. The writing operation's a well-tuned function, the rest of this Authoring shop needs further tedious justification, the equivalent of scissors and rubber cement.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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