The Relief of Responsibility

The other day, as I downloaded books from Calibre to my Kindle, I made the mistake of also downloading my own book, Anna and the Dragon. It was curiosity. I hadn’t yet seen how it appeared on an e-reader screen. And then my curiosity led me to read the first chapter. I was instantly mortified at what I had published. It was awkward. It was stale. It was the effort of an amateur.

I should have put it aside and left it alone, but I kept reading—not because I had free time on my hands (I didn’t), but because it was like a wound that had scabbed over, and an absurd compulsion to pick at it consumed me. So I read my book. When I ran across my first error, my head pulsed with humiliation. When I ran across my second, my stomach churned with sickness. By the time I reached the third (more on this one later), I knew I had made a mistake by self-publishing. These errors proved my incompetence, my incapability. If I was incapable at something as small as editing a short novel, then how could I continue on in a mechanical engineering degree? Don’t bother to explain to me that these two are in no way connected. Of course they’re connected; they’re connected by a lack of due diligence and the resources it takes to succeed in the world.

I was humbled—rendered incapable. And then the blaming began. I blamed myself for not being a good enough marketer of my work to the traditional market; I blamed agents and editors who saw no promise in my writing. I blamed a lack of funds for not being able to pass the buck to a professional editor. I didn’t want to do this project alone!* I cried in self-pity. I disappeared to the Tech campus, where I took care of some business before falling into a chair and sitting with a paper cup of coffee, numbness consuming me. Eventually, I roused myself because I had things to do at home.

But I couldn’t do the needful things at home. I was exhausted. I was exhausted from staying up nights, from homeschooling for the last thirteen years of my life, from completing another semester toward my life-of-learning career. I was so exhausted from years of work and zero accomplishments that I slipped inside my closet and sat with my knees drawn up to my chest. While there, a sense of peace stole over me, and I realized something very important: Yes, I had made errors, and, therefore, I needed to take responsibility for them and own them. And so I did.

In essence, this rocky piece of fiction is my accomplishment and, at some point, when I can breathe again, I’ll fix the errors and re-release my book because—indeed—I’m fully responsible for this work I’ve put my name on. I’m the editor-publisher-author all rolled into one. If the notion that I’m capable of forever editing and re-releasing my books makes you cringe a little, think what it’s doing to my warped mind. When I consider that some of the current errors were created by my last round of editing, I begin to feel that I’m lost in an M.C. Escher conceit—a fractal of never ending word patterns.

Oh, and about that third error (I might have miscounted, but by my reckoning, it’s the third)–I can only conclude that this is an old error that has remained through multiple revisions. It creates a kind of odd symmetry of the time travel in my book, and I’m not sure I want to nix it. It’s a conundrum, and it’s clearly a mistake, but it’s the kind of mistake that could be considered as a part of the integrity of the art. Sadly, the rest are just banal typographical problems.

*I didn’t do this entirely alone. I had stellar beta readers who gave me good advice. However, I alone was responsible for line editing, as well as final content edits. None of my betas saw the final draft.



  1. “When I consider that some of the current errors were created by my last round of editing, I begin to feel that I’m lost in an M.C. Escher conceit—a fractal of never ending word patterns.” Hee hee.

    I’ll go ahead and state the obvious. It seems stale to you because you have been looking at it for so long.

    I understand the hiding in a dark corner. I generally curl up in the fetal position under a cover, or take a half hour long shower.

    1. It’s too bad I can’t hide in a dark corner that will also cause my thoughts to cease. That’s the trick, I think!

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