"Maybe I should be grateful that it seems to slow down this progression."

If I can write a book in three months, how long should it take me to edit the resulting manuscript? The correct answer turns out to be 'a lot longer than three months.' I don't know precisely how much longer, but it's definitely longer. Once completed, the editing shows that the first draft was pretty close to finish-quality from the outset, hardly more than moving the occasional dangling modifier or correcting the usual 'that' in lieu of an intended 'than.' The effort falls far short of any contemporary understanding of what constitutes work, yet it takes a very long time for me to complete it. Between compiling the pieces, properly formatting them, printing them out, reading and marking up, updating the original soft copy, then distilling into a fresh copyedited work, months might pass, much of the time spent procrastinating from the task at hand. Procrastination constitutes at least ninety percent of the effort, and it's by far the most exhausting and depleting part.

The chief difficulty lies in the inescapable fact that I'm one Schlocky editor.
I do not like copyediting my own work, and I probably have no real business attempting it. An old adage borrows from a similar one about lawyers: only a fool hires himself as his copyeditor. The honorable copyediting skill seems altogether too subtle and demanding to entrust to any author. It exercises muscles no writer even need develop. It requires perspective and a cooler head than any passionate scribbler could ever possess. It's not just a matter of switching out hats, the author must undergo a wholesale personality transplant to successfully copyedit his own work. Without such surgery, the responsibility likely becomes more obligation than opportunity, just the sort of assignment that insists upon procrastination, and plenty of it.

Along with procrastination comes the attendant shirking guilt, as inescapable as it is necessary. Self copyediting (SchlockyEditing) cannot be completed by employing a light heart. Paranoia must stalk the edges of the desk. The dread certainty lurks whispering that a simple proofread will discover shit rather than story, evidence that the three months already wasted creating the manuscript was, indeed, wasted effort. Redemption seems unlikely. Confirmation, slim. Just facing the damned manuscript again feels most like a harsh sentence, and any sane writer should sink in his heels at the prospect. Perhaps tomorrow would be a better time to begin. Tomorrows continue to stack up until some real time slips away before even more does, too.

Perhaps every profession features some of this sort of work. The core responsibilities might enliven the professional while a few of the more peripheral ones drag him down. Set up might feel fine, but clean up's a perennial bummer. I try to keep my SchlockyEditing no more than a year behind my original production, though I tell myself that I'd really prefer to maintain a much narrower lag. I suspect that editing requires some essential distance from the creation, and the creation never stops, never even slows down. The production manager part of me observes this obvious inefficiency and deeply wonders what's fundamentally wrong with me that I cannot seem to maintain some semblance of a steady SchlockyEditing pace. Then I remind myself that my work was never really a race. It's done when I say it's done. Like with most work, beginning's much easier than completing, and completion carries a small death with it. Once the Schlock Work's done, that once present creation slips into ever-receding history. My baby abandons me and we both move on. SchlockyEditing slows the always too-rapid movement toward oblivion. Maybe I should be grateful that it seems to slow down this progression.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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