Railing against imperfection

For most of my editing career, I relied on typesetting professionals to copy fit and make text changes. Each round of editing generated a new proof, which often led to further changes.

Offending railing

The offending railing.

The artists and typesetters I worked with were unfailingly gracious with my repeated attempts to “perfect” a story with corrections I thought essential. However, they made it clear that three proofs should be enough to finish the job. My asking for Proof #4 was pushing our friendship. Proof #5 was stretching the social contract between us. And as for Proof #6, well, I better bring doughnuts.

As a result, far too many imperfect articles left my hands because I finally ran out of the nerve to beg an artist to provide one more missing comma.

Not so with self-publishing. If I were counting “proofs” for this post, I’d hit double digits trying to correct every last imperfection. Online, I could–and would–always be willing to make another change.

So it’s especially frustrating when, in regard to non-editorial projects, I’m prevented from fixing that “one more thing.”

Take the new kitchen railing I recently installed. I ordered the parts from a local custom builder, and spent the better part of a day putting it up. (Never having done this before, it was measure 10 times, drill once. Oh yeah, and go to the hardware store twice.)

After seven hours, I was worn out and willing to overlook a number of imperfections that I was sure no one else would notice. (Can you tell how the ends of those balusters aren’t perfectly flush with the floor?) So I didn’t pay as much attention to the final step as I wish I would have.

Twisted rosette

The twisted rosette, a mockery of perfection.

See where the railing attaches to the wall? In my haste to finish the job, I drove nails through that oval rosette without aligning its wood grain vertically. As you can plainly see, the rosette is 6 degrees from the perpendicular.

Big deal, you say. But it’s forever. I can’t fix it, not without risking major damage to the wall or the rosette, or both.

So now I’m reminded of the flaw every time I use the stairs. As many as a dozen times a day, I’m mocked by my failure and forced to face the truth that all that stands between the job as it is and perfection is the equivalent of a Proof #21. And alas, that ain’t gonna happen.

Such is the degraded life of an former editor, thwarted by reality.

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