Don’t worry. I’m not talking about you or me or any other human, not even pets. Yesterday I had a bit of mail I’ve been eagerly waiting for: the proof copy of my book about tea, Kettle Pot Cup. Eager (optimistic) and anxious (pessimistic.) I was cool, waiting until I finished a chore or three before carefully opening the package of what is a first edition. Looks good, er, well not great, but, but, is it good enough? For once my answer was No. Sometimes not good enough really is not good enough, because good is subjective; and sometimes good enough is something to treat with respect.
For those who don’t follow every one of my social media posts it may come as a surprise that I like tea and that I’ve been writing a book about tea. (#TomTea) This is not a book about High Tea, though there are comments about getting high on tea. There are rituals around tea, but I drink tea because I like tea. I guess that the majority of tea is consumed (because saying tea is drunk sounds like tea has an issue that requires intervention), that tea is consumed by people at work, or at home, or in the car. We’ve created informal rituals about those too, but they don’t get as much attention. Tea is simple: dead leaves, hot water, wait a bit, and sip. No ritual required, though some will make a ritual out of how it fits into their life. Do you compost the leaves, reuse them, or dump them and the bag they came in into the trash as soon as the water turns the right shade of brown? It’s personal, and it isn’t formal. That’s what this book is about.
This book is also about the people who pick the leaves. Thanks to Starbucks (really), I became aware of the conditions of coffee growers. They don’t get much money from each multi-dollar cup of mocha whatever. It didn’t take much research to realize the same was true of the people who hand-pick tea leaves in the few hours of the day that are the best for harvesting. I don’t have much money to donate (Ha! #massiveunderstatement), but I realized it was possible to raise funds for them by writing a book about tea, and giving them the book proceeds from a nice, small, hardback book that would be easy to buy and ship as a gift. Hence, Kettle Pot Cup.
With tempered relief I sent off the book ready to print (I hoped). It arrived yesterday. Books might seem like they’re about words, but there’s a lot of work that goes into designing the cover, laying out the pages, finding a publisher or at least a printer, spreading the word (thanks for reading and sharing), and generally finding yet another detail to resolve.
At a glance it looked and felt like I expected. This isn’t an ebook, so the tactile sensation matters. It was fine. But, there within minutes I found three things that may never be noticed by most, but even I could identify as something to improve.
The battle to find the balance point of good enough is something I’m very familiar with. In engineering there were specific objective criteria. Could a 747 with one engine failed turn by a certain amount in a specified time? (Yes, and that’s another story about good enough, but I don’t want to tread on the FAA’s toes.) The more frequent battle is within the arts. Listen to almost any podcast of WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com, a podcast Don Scobie(y) and I co-produce and we’ll probably mention that line in the artistic sand.
Most advice I receive tends towards, “It is probably good enough.” (Just like the punctuation of that sentence.) Advice frequently comes from people who haven’t even seen the product. In general, I usually tend that way, too. Books can’t be perfect. Have you found a typo in a book? Don’t be surprised. A 99% error-free book means 1,000 errors in a 100,000 word book. (Imagine how many typos there are in my millions of words online.) Writers frequently write to an error rate of over 99.9%, better than 100 errors, at a guess.
The issues I found weren’t errors, but were things that could be easily improved and would remove distractions – and hopefully increase sales, and hence increase donations to the tea pickers’ charities.
And that was the thing that made me say, Not good enough. I’m trying to help someone else, and if a three week delay amplifies the benefit, then that’s probably worth it – as long as I don’t get detoured in the meantime.
Some may know that last week I also produced a book of nature photos of Whidbey Island, Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay. (Ninth in the five book series, which is another story.) The professional who helps me with cleaning and polishing those photos (Joe Menth) has much higher standards than me. We frequently have discussions about a photo which leaves him asking something like; “How can you not see that smudge?” If I have to stare, it is probably good enough for me. Not for him. ‘Good enough’ is subjective and situational dependent. (BTW His work is excellent. Feather And Fox Print Co)
With a bit of his help and maybe another person or two Kettle Pot Cup can be a dramatically better book. The words won’t change, but they’ll look better; and people do judge books by their covers.
I hoped to celebrate and announce the completion of the book in April, but it will now take until late May (which means missing Mother’s Day). It also means doubling up, or tripling up as I return to working on my science fiction novel (due this fall), and a busy real estate schedule (with my first public speaking gig due in a week or two.) Pardon me as I sip a cup of tea as that workload sinks in.
Good enough, or not, has more than one answer. Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. For Twelve Months at Dugualla Bay, yes. For Kettle Pot Cup, not yet. Stay tuned, and maybe enough a cup or a mug of hot water poured over the right dead leaves. Remember, you are good enough.
For those post to be good enough the state requires that I add:
(Disclosure: I’m a broker at Dalton Realty, Inc. http://whidbeyrealtor.com/).