Shoot! What I should have told that guy was…

You know that regret you feel when you think of a snappy comeback too late? The French have a great phrase for it. L’esprit de l’escalier. The wit of the staircase. The retort you come up with of as you descend after the fact. There’s something akin to that experience in reading galley proofs. Sure, it’s exciting to see the almost finished product in your hands. It looks like an actual book. Then second-guessing sinks in. Why did I put it this way? How could I forget that? Where in the world did those (fill in the blank) come from? Worry replaces elation. Self-recrimination fills the air. What saves the day is the accretion of proof-read pages, the pile growing on the left, shrinking on the right. The corrections in red ink (hopefully rare) begin to comfort, not concern me, the writer’s equivalent of a mountain climber’s pitons hammered into rock for support as you ascend. You’re doing it. Nearly finished now. Best of all, galley proofs signal that it’s time to dig into the next manuscript. Time to go back up the staircase, repartee at the ready.

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