I love proofreading. It’s a humble task in the chain of publishing process. Or, at least, a task which most will see as humble.
I wonder why I like it so. I can’t, I have to admit, focus on one activity to the exclusion of any other. That’s just the way I’m built, I’m afraid. And those who say otherwise, maybe for my own good with reason, misunderstand what I need.
But if truth be told, proofreading is like good sex – or voyeuristic sex, anyway. Unlike the role of writer, when everything unspools, when a handle on the work’s direction does not entirely belong to the author, when the characters themselves take on lives of their own … unlike the writer or the thinker or the salesperson, the proofreader sees everything – but everything – at a single glance.
And without too many doubts, either.
The good proofreader needs a dictionary only to confirm: never to identify where something, quite wrong, needs obviously amending.
Obviously, that is, to the good proofreader.
Like that voyeuristic sex I mention, then, the good proofreader commits little of themselves and yet receives so much pleasure in return.
The pleasure of accuracy, of exactitude, of supporting the voice of another even … yes, it’s not all one way; it’s not all being in control.
But it is a getting to know of a network which, soon enough, gets thoroughly explored and defined – ultimately fascinatingly enjoyed, over and over.
Networks are popular things these days: everything, as you can see, can be interpreted as a network. There is, of course, in all our lives a real place for love and attachment, with all its happy and sad complications. But surely there is also a place for where we can feel in charge: something which briefly reassures our sense of being; of emotion; of character; of simple existence.
For me, that activity is so often proofreading. No preparation. Just an act which has a beginning, middle and end; and which is dependent on us knowing from vast experience exactly what to do at every stage.
Interaction with people is glorious stuff. But the networks which allow us to say yes or no to words and their multiple links are clearly relationships which form part of a wider pleasure: getting it right, getting it wrong, sometimes getting it intelligently fuzzy … a whole human breadth of curious experience, corked into that ten-page document which acquires fifty comments along the way.
Why do I need it so, then? Maybe because stimulation sometimes gets too much for me: my brain is constructed with a chemistry which can dazzle myself, if not others; the connections failing on occasions to stop their interesting scuttling around.
I need the limits of two-dimensional networks sometimes; the fitting together in attractive consonance of twenty-six letters and their corresponding punctuations.
But such connections are not malevolent. They just need comprehending. As they also need the comprehension of the understanding.
And the channelling of the wise.
Is that OK?