Humility, Forests and Trees

I pride myself, in certain cases, on my perfectionism. Not always, by any means – there are lots of occasions where I’m not perfectionistic at all. House cleaning, for example. Or yard work. But when it comes to my writing, oh yes, the perfectionist in me is out in full force. As far as content of writing goes, you can’t really make it perfect, you can just make it as good as you can; the rest is a matter of opinion. But form, and formatting – well, there is such a thing as absolutely correct. Spelling, grammar, having everything look right, it matters.

So I released Seventh Son yesterday to great fanfare – drum rolls, fireworks, the lot. There it was, all neat and shiny, on Amazon and Smashwords and CreateSpace. My friends were all patting me on the back, and I felt so proud of myself.  And then, in the early afternoon, a friend messaged me on Facebook: “It might just be my ebook reader, but it looks like chapter 3 and 4 are identical.” WHAT?!? I grabbed the hardcopy I had sitting beside me on the kitchen table, flipped to chapter 3, then to chapter 4 – and said some swear words, loudly. Jumped up, clapped my hands to my face, swore again, frantically paced three steps back and forwards again, hyperventilated, clutched at my hair – you get the picture. Full-on panic mode.

I had, right at the base level, dropped out chapter 3, and instead put in a duplicate of chapter 4. Right in the base file, when I exported the text from Scrivener to a Word document – the file that I used to do all my formatting from, for print, Amazon, Smashwords, everything. And I never saw it. I went over those files over and over again. I had even noticed that it said “Chapter 4” twice, so I fixed the first one to say “Chapter 3”. But I never noticed that it was the wrong text in that chapter. I read over that file so many times since I wrote the story, over and over. It was a classic case of not seeing the forest for the trees – so many chapters of text which I was so familiar with and had looked at so many times, I never saw the glaring error. And I blithely uploaded the file to all the ebook vendors, even had a couple of proof copies printed.

So here I put myself out there, telling the world how great I am and what a great thing I accomplished, and it’s got this big fat mistake in it. Talk about a humbling experience. I’m not perfect, not even where it matters, and now the whole world knows it.

My friend Lee Strauss, whose mentorship has been instrumental in getting Seventh Son off the ground, tells me that every self-published writer does something like this at least once. Phew – at least I’m not the only one. I guess you’re not a proper indie writer until you’ve screwed up for the first time; so I’m lucky I did it right on my first release date and got it over with.

And now that you all know I’m not perfect, I have nothing more to lose. I can just carry on being me; write my stories, drivel on in my blog posts, and you won’t expect me to never make mistakes. Which you probably never did anyway – the expectations were all in my own head – but now I know you won’t. And that’s a really freeing thought.

Life, the Universe, and Big Public Bloopers. The freedom of dispensing with illusions.