The Mirror and the Back-of-Book Text

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

I’ve walked by the fancy mirror many times. It’s not my mirror, after all, it’s my sister-in-law’s. But this time, I stopped. Because this time, I spied a little switch on the bottom of the mirror. 

Hmmmm…I wondered, what if I flipped this switch? And BAM! The mirror lit up! As I peered into it, I saw deep crevices of a flesh-tone, and splotches of a darker color and…wait a minute. Wait. A. Minute. IS THAT MY FACE?

 It’s like those pictures at 2500X magnification and one doesn’t realize it’s a box of matches until the lens pulls back. I was both appalled and enthralled. And after gazing at the close-up wonders of my face for way too long, I thought about the text on the back of my book. 

I am not exaggerating when I say I rewrote those approximately 200 words dozens of times. There’s a lot riding on that back cover copy; it must be perfectly brilliant and downright captivating! And after four or five weeks of revisions, I decided to take a Saturday and just get ‘er done.

Fortunately for me, I had only one sticky sentence (or two) to work out at this point, so I figured an hour, tops. Four hours later, I had a headache from the gnashing and grinding of my teeth. Midway through hour five, hangry and frustrated, I knew I was nit-picking, to use an extremely apt word for this situation. So I quit fiddling with the text and pressed send. 

Oh frabjous day! I literally danced out of the office into the kitchen. But I'd barely finished my sandwich when this popped into my mind: I should have said this. 

I whipped out my phone, checking the copy and saw immediately what I should have used to make the meaning clear. It was two words switched in two sentences. TWO words. 

Honestly, are there any worse thoughts than the should-haves? And the more I thought about it, the more I was convinced it could not stand. I had to fix it! Except the form had been sent. I’d emailed a lovely note to the project manager, thanking her for her patience. Within a few minutes, she'd responded. She’d passed it along and I’d hear back within seven days. 

For seven days, those two words haunted me. They woke me in the middle of the night, tormented me every time I opened my laptop. According to the fine print, any errors that were mine—and let’s face it, this was totally mine—that had to be fixed would incur a fee. But how much? And could I afford to sink another penny into this project? And was it really worth it? AM I CRAZY? 

Ugh. (And perhaps yes, I’m crazy.) 

But mostly, I was seriously annoyed with myself. I was too close to this text, scrutinizing every little detail, obsessing about every single word and…quite simply, I needed to pull back and take a breather. Had I walked away from the back cover copy, eaten lunch, taken a walk, or cleaned a bathroom and then come back with fresh eyes to check before sending, I would have seen the solution—the two words—easily.

And here’s the kicker: I know this about myself. I don’t even send a blog post out tout de suite. I write it and come back later for a re-read. I almost always see something that needs fixing, even though I didn’t notice when I was close up and working on it. 

Anyway, all’s well that ends well. The back cover came back and I asked about changing the two words, resigned to paying whatever it cost. But there was no added fee and the revised text came back within 20 minutes. The company was probably just glad to be rid of me. 

Now I’m thinking maybe I should keep a mirror on my desk. You know, as a reminder of what happens when I get fixated on something close-up and don’t step back for a bit. 

You think my sister-in-law would notice if her mirror went missing?


Angela Mackintosh said...

Cathy, you always have the best analogies! I don't know why it always hits me the night before I send out a newsletter, but I start switching a couple words back and forth after realizing it's going to be sent to fifty thousand people. We are always rushed the day before deadline to make sure the markets are fresh and links work, so there's never any time to step back. The thing that really bothers me is you can't fix any mistakes like you can with a blog post if you mess up, since it's an email and already sent. But having that extra time to wait a day and see things with fresh eyes is so essential. In my own creative work, I have a bad habit of switching words back and forth if I don't have a deadline and can do it forever. Lol. I'm glad your back cover copy worked out and you were able to revise it! I can't wait to see it. :)

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