Proofing the Proof of the Proof of the Proof

Proofing the proof









We’re just about ready to publish Expedition Austin: A Kid’s Guide to the Weirdest Town in Texas. We’re really proud of it, and super excited to get it out there into the world.

Do you hear the enthusiasm in my voice? The unfettered joy and pride? No? Well, that’s because I’m on my fourth round of proofs. I’m proofing proof after proof after proof so I can send off for a REAL proof. I find things to fix every time, which is why I keep proofing proofs.

My question is, when do you call it done? When do you just say “good enough” and put it out there. I know people who are frozen in their tracks, incapable of finishing anything at all because they can’t deem their project “perfect.” Those tracks are a maddening place to stand.

I heard a Malcolm Gladwell Revisionist History podcast that touched on this, though it was primarily about how genius is achieved; how it evolves and different approaches to creative pursuits. The episode was called “Hallelujah” in reference to the gorgeous Leonard Cohen song (covered here by Jeff Buckley).

Apparently, Cohen wrote more than 80 verses over years and years before ever bringing it out. The result is pretty damn close to perfect. But, what if he’d gone with an earlier version? Would he have saved himself years of frustration and angst? Would anyone have noticed but him? Would even he have noticed after some space? How much better, really, was the final take?

Not that I’m comparing this book to a Leonard Cohen masterpiece, but many writers can probably relate. At some point, you have to put it out there, even if it’s terrifying. Even if there’s a lowercase “a.m.” when it should be uppercase and all caps. Even if I forgot to mention a super awesome place to park near Home Slice pizza. Even if there’s a spare comma on one (or more) of the 120 pages. Even if it’s not perfect.

I’m practicing with this here blog post. Forget proofing–I’m not even going to reread it. It’ll be like one of those awesome OK Go one-shot videos. Of course, you can’t publish a book done in a single take, but surely there’s a balance between first draft and a soul crushed by one too many proofs.

The Thing About Drawing Boards

ExpeditionAustin_HOPE Gallery


I’ve written before about the importance of flexibility in a writer’s life, and was recently reminded of that truth. My colleague, Virginia, and I are just about ready to put our Austin guide for kids out into the world, but learned that one of the places we highlighted in the book is closing soon. The HOPE gallery is awesome, and thankfully will reopen somewhere, but the 4-1-1 isn’t known yet. As a result, we’re going back to the old drawing board for a new location to highlight. It’s an unexpected delay, but we know the book will be better and more accurate if we make the change, so we’re rolling with it!

If you are able to get to the great graffiti park before it moves to its new digs, here’s a little piece of Expedition Austin to take with you. While our book is “officially” for kids, we say there’s no shame in letting childhood last a few extra decades. We’d love feedback if you do use this page–and we promise to take it to the drawing board.