Wednesday, June 8, 2011

When a Big Editorial Project Ends

Satisfaction. Letdown. Relief. Pride. And, eventually panic.

These are just some of the emotions I rotate through at a time like this, the day after I have finished a major, long-term client editorial project. And by finished, I mean definitely finished, for sure; not like last month when it felt just about finished. Now, the client's book has been sent off to the printer by the publisher, and that's it. The end of 19 months of hard work, collegial collaboration, laughs, and occasionally, disagreements and promises to myself (never again!).

Yesterday, I did a few quick edits on the second version of the foreword, gave an opinion on some cover text, and without even realizing it at the moment, the project came to a quiet end.

More than a year and a half ago, one of the co-authors called. Demanding schedules and commitments created a need for editorial help in order to complete the manuscript the two authors had proposed, sold and committed to delivering to a respected, established academic and professional press.

Over the many months we worked together, my role took on a fluidity that at times unnerved me, challenged my patience as well as my skills, and had me wondering why I'd agreed to the project in the first place and at the same time thinking, I'd like some more, please.

For 19 months, I revised, advised, edited, wrote, rewrote, brainstormed, ghostwrote, restructured, consulted, coached, proofread -- and revised again and edited some more.

And today, when I know for sure that, at least for this particular book project, there will be no more urgent emails or late night phone calls asking me to drop everything and take another look at a client-revised chapter, that all of the structuring decisions are final, that nothing else requires "just one more pass," I'm glad to let it go. And, a little sad too.

But mostly – as everyone who makes a living as a freelancer will likely admit – I'm wondering how and when I'll replace that completed project with another income-producing project.

And then there's that little voice, a temptress, urging, on second thought…. As I moved all of the files from the completed project off my desk, put them far out of arm's reach, glanced at my calendar now free of weekly project-related deadlines, and noticed that clean swatch of uncluttered space on my desk, beckoning, teasing – I hesitated, and thought about what it might be like…

"I know!" I mused. "I won't take on another big project. Instead, I'll use those big chunks (instead of small pieces) of time, to work on my own book."

Then I snapped out of it, slapped my forehead, and reminded myself that the tuition bill, the now higher property taxes, the summer camp fees, and oh yes, the mortgage, are a lot more related to my securing more paid client work than producing a book spine with my name on it.

I know (no, I hope and pray) another interesting project will come along, but also worry that it will happen later rather than sooner. That's where the panic comes in, staring at that blank calendar and knowing those pesky, annoying, wonderful – and missing – project-related deadlines need to appear there. With luck, I'll have another project to (sometimes) complain about and to love, and I'll be grateful, and I will get busy, and I will learn something new and feel proud of what I can help a client accomplish on the page.

Many days, that's enough.

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