Can’t Hardly Wait
In April of 1966, I was fifteen and a freshman in high school.
There was some kind of evening event – a Spring Concert I think, although I now cannot remember. But back then, it was oh-so-important.
And for some reason (or perhaps no reason at all) I wanted a trenchcoat to wear to this event. Now April and raincoats go together. But I had a raincoat. I wanted a trenchcoat. One of those secret agent man type of coats. Beige, double-breasted, belted.
I wanted a trenchcoat like I had never wanted anything more in my life. (Except for a boyfriend. I wanted a boyfriend more.)
The day of the event, I was still pleading with my Mom to let me get a coat. My navy blue raincoat would not do. My yellow slicker would not do. I needed a beige trenchcoat.
And she finally gave in.
We went to Robert Hall, a clothes store that mainly catered to men, but had a decent women’s department. Well, decent if you were desperate and your mother wouldn’t take you anywhere else.
And I found a trenchcoat. And I bought it.
And it was not what I wanted. It had big cheap plastic buttons, and a too-wide belt, and a huge oversized collar that would not lay flat. And it wasn’t even the right color beige. It was sort of off-white. Off-white is not beige.
But I bought it.
Because I had to have a trenchcoat and I had to have it immediately.
I saw later – much later – maybe 20 years or so later – how foolish it was. To settle for something that was shoddy because I couldn’t wait.
Let me be honest.
It did not take me 20 years to see my mistake.
It took 51.
Because I just did it again.
And with something way more important than a trenchcoat.
Over the last year, I wrote LUCINDA’S SOLUTION, a novel set in the early 20th century about the changing mores and the changing role of women in society.
And I knew that it was good. It was really good.
And I couldn’t wait to get it out there. See my book in my hand. Give it to everyone. Have it read. That’s why writers write. For readers to read.
I sent it off to my formatter, and she turned it around very quickly. And I proofed it very quickly, and published it. Very quickly.
And my gorgeous, excellent, important novel – that I love so much – is:
There are typos everywhere. The punctuation is worse than awful – missing quotations marks and quotation marks looking in the wrong direction everywhere. Commas instead of periods. Crazy spacing. And worst of all, through some formatting error, the paperback version is missing two very sweet scenes – scenes that are referenced later in the story.
I screwed up my baby.
Haste makes Waste, my Grandma used to say.
And I’m mortified. And I’m sorry to anyone who read my book in such an awful state. It’s a great story and well told. But it looks awful.
Why didn’t I take my time and do it right?
Why did I buy a cheap trenchcoat?
Because, as Grandma also used to say, I can’t hardly wait.
Yes, my formatter made a serious error and deleted scenes in the paperback. And yes, it turns out that my word processing software has a glitch in punctuation, and just uses open or closed quotes in sort of a random pick-a-card kind of fashion. But neither one of those things is to blame.
I am to blame.
I put out a book I am proud of in a way I am not proud of.
But I can fix it.
No one died (except my pride).
It’s fixable and I’m doing it right now. I’m getting it right. Using better software. Reading and re-reading. Not reading what I expect to see on the page. READING. And with a great giant font that lets me see which way those goddamn quotes are facing.
Impatience is not a virtue. Except maybe when you are impatient for Justice or Kindness in the world.
If you are doing something wonderful, take your time. Make it right. Nothing and no one is perfect, but make it as good as it can be.
Self-imposed deadlines are destructive.
Wait for the beautiful trenchcoat – the one that will last forever and never goes out of style.
And if you have made a dreadful mistake:
Take responsibility and Fix it.
It’s worth it and you are worth it.
I’m fixing my beautiful story so that it is as impeccable as it deserves to be.
PS: Please know – to anyone who may have already purchased LUCINDA’S SOLUTION: I am so sorry. I will get a replacement book – a Kindle version or a paperback version – out to you at my expense. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We both deserve to know that mistakes can be corrected. And apologies can be given. And accepted.
PPS: The Kindle version is not missing any scenes… it just has all the annoying (but not terminal) typos.