Finian, the man who helped us reclaim our house one board, post hole, retaining wall, and joist at a time, had a thing for great turns of phrase. He would sing as he worked, swinging his hammer in rhythm to Helen Reddy. There’s nothing like hearing an Irishman’s brogue warbling “I am woman, hear me roar.” One of my favorite Finian phrases would pop up when he had measured twice, cut precisely, and watched as the board or piece of sheet rock or whatever material slid right into place. “Perfect,” his helper would say, and he’d reply, “Well, perfect will have to do.”
Perfection with building materials is rather straightforward. Either it fits, or it doesn’t. And if it doesn’t, and you force it, like those ridiculous IKEA instructions, something is going to break. But with other things, it is not so easy to decide what is perfection.
I have been having this issue with the cover of my book.
I thought I was done. I had carefully moved thing around, edging this piece of type up a smidge, or changing the color of that piece of type from latte-colored chocolate to espresso-colored chocolate. Things got bigger. They got smaller. They moved around. It is enough to drive you crazy sometimes, but you hope that by the end you’ve come up with something good. So I sent the cover off to Hong Kong and I got the proof back. But it wasn’t perfect. I knew I liked it … pretty much … but there was something that bugged me. It was only after folding it onto the dummy book that I realized the chocolate color just wasn’t right for the type, and what WAS I thinking to make the headline type so huge, and it was too close to the edge.
I had to call the printer, tell them to stop work on the cover, and prepare for a new file. In reality, they don’t care a whip. They charge for any changes you make, and the slow down of the schedule due to your changes is very clear. So why was it so hard to make that call? Why did I think they (and this is so embarrassing to admit) wouldn’t like me as much if I became that kind of client who changed her mind all the time. You know the type. Demanding.
Why do I care?