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Monday 15 April 2013

On perfection - flat notes and writing typos

Last evening my wife Jennifer sang as part of the combined choirs of Vivace and Chorale Mendelssohn’s Elijah in a gorgeous Spanish theatre. Jen was one of seven soloists. The choirs acquitted themselves well; it’s a difficult and rather long work. Needless to say, while the audience was very enthusiastic and impressed with the performance, a few perfectionists in the choirs beat themselves up over the occasional sour or flat note. This is only natural, as artists should always strive for perfection, and it reflects on their professionalism that they try to attain it.
Still, in the real world, perhaps perfectionists should gain perspective.
This choral work was sung by a combination of British, Russian, Dutch and Scandinavian men and women, accompanied by a Spanish pianist, singing in English to a Spanish, British, Scandinavian, Dutch and German audience. The ticket money from the performance goes towards a project to construct a rural school in Southern India, for 575 children aged five to eleven. The project’s target is 65,492 euros and they already have in excess of 40,000. That, alone, is pretty amazing, the coming together of different nationalities to give pleasure and work towards a good cause.
There may be a few off notes, but the entire performance impressed, and that’s what’s important.
The same applies to writers and their critics. Yes, there may be a few typos missed by author, editor, and proof-reader – and the author is often the first to beat herself up when these are found, after the book goes to print, rarely at the galley/proof stage. That’s good, striving for perfection. Self-edit, self-edit, self-edit is a good mantra to follow, but there comes a time when you have to let it go – and that applies to the publisher as well as the author.
Again, a little perspective is required.
Maybe 80,000 or more words are strung together to create characters and a fictional world for the reader, and there’s nothing wrong with over 99.9999% of those words! Fine, if the book has clearly not been adequately edited, fair criticism – usually reserved for self-published work, I suspect. But complaining about the occasional glitch is simply petty and uncharitable. If the story does what is intended, then judge it on those merits, not on a few typos.

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