Friday, February 5, 2010

The Writer's Life: Proofing the Proofs for (I hope) the Final Time ...

This is the part of the book process that I find the most difficult. Not only do I worry incessantly that I am missing embarrassing typos, but my poems start to look very tired after the fourth, fifth, tenth go round. I usually don't obsess about whether my poems are good or bad -- they just are -- like my cats or my life. Tonight, however, I want them to be 100 proof like this expensive vodka. (I don't even drink vodka.)

 To cheer myself up I wrote this description of my book to a friend. I should probably not leave it up - but it feels so very true at the moment:

 Susan Rich wishes this book were better. She wants to be Elizabeth Bishop, but she is not. Try reading the poems about food — they will wet your appetite and you can then close the book and head out for a good meal.

I am so very happy to be almost finished with this process. I think when the book arrives on my doorstep in early April I will, of course, love it. Have other people had this intense self-doubt just as the book goes to the printer?

PS I just "proofed" this post and found a typo in the title. You see why I don't trust myself!


  1. Now that would be an interesting book description in the catalog, wouldn't it!? ;-) I don't wish you were Elizabeth. I am glad you are Susan.

    Yes, I think self-doubt is just a part of being an artist/writer, and also being human. It will be a great book! Thank you for your honesty though, I think we all feel this at different times.

  2. Yes, of course, similar doubts. I like what you say about your feeling that your poems are what they are, like your cats. A book, though, can make us nervous. Elizabeth Bishop wished her poems were better. Have you read her letters?

    All the best with your book!!

  3. Oh yes. I'm also in that same doubt-laden territory right now. I could have / should have sent in my final mss a month ago. But here it is, still on the kitchen table. I just can't decide about one poem. Keep it? Chuck it? Move it to a different spot? Now how obsessive and ridiculous is that! Be sure to use spell check. I thought my mss was totally free of spelling errors and typos. Spell check proved me wrong.

  4. Diane,

    What a simple and superb idea; I have not done that yet. At 11:00 PM last night I did find two mistakes in the table of contents for the first section. I will spell check today. And Kelli and Mimi thank you for letting me know that I am not alone.

  5. Susan, I can empathize 100%! My manuscript was 12 years in the making (including long silences), so I had all kinds of niggling doubts when it finally went to press. What comforted me was the knowledge that the poems had finally (finally!) been put to bed and I could turn my attention to considering new work (which has been much harder than I'd imagined, but things are cohering).

    Elizabeth Bishop wrote many wonderful poems, but her work is flawed, just like any poet's work is flawed. The important thing is that you write your poems - only you can do that, and the world needs them.

  6. Thank you, Mari,
    I can't say the world really needs my poems -- it seems too overblown. Maybe a handful of people are moved by my work - maybe it speaks to something genuine in some. I think that's as far as I can go ...

  7. Well, "the world" includes "some people"! And that could be said for any of us, really, especially when we consider the readership for poetry... : )