Hi! I have a question, and I'm not trying to be funny, I swear. I've noticed that editors often use words like "tomorrow" and "by Friday" and "next week" (in reference to when I should expect an offer, or a production schedule, or a set of proofs, or whatever). It virtually never does come tomorrow or Friday or next week, and generally, these promises are followed by months of radio silence.I know all about this, having been guilty of it myself. And I look at my coworkers, and see a lot of myself in them. So in the spirit of self-awareness, I'm going to share something really true about editors:
I know editors are insanely busy, but what puzzles me is, if things always take a great deal longer than expected, why do they keep on specifying "tomorrow" or "by Friday" or "next week"? Why don't they say "sometime in the next three months" if that's what's most likely?
1. Editors are almost always smart people who know how they want the world to be.
2. There's a little OCD running around in the make-up of many editors, and plenty of over-achiever-ship.
3. Editors are constantly saved and undermined by their optimistic natures.
So we know clearly what we think we ought to be able to promise people (point 1), and we very much want to promise it to them (point 2), and we will promise it to them (point 3).
And to be fair, we come through on a lot of our promises-- but we come through most on the promises to the projects that are not only signed up but whose late schedules/emergencies are screaming like hungry children.
The promises we do not come through on nag at us and make us feel guilty. I understand your plea for realism in projected dates, but realistically? If I told someone I would get back to them in three months, my brain/workstyle would categorize that task as too far in the future to keep track of, and forget about it entirely. If I told someone I would do something in three months, it would not happen.
And I suppose that when I think hard about how long everything takes--and how fast it all goes by for me (it's February?! Where did January go? Where, for that matter, did November and December go?! It still feels like fricking October to me!), the truth is that I'm a little terrified that if I started being honestly realistic with myself, I would realise that this is an impossible job; a treadmill that will always go a bit faster than I can run; a black hole in my life that is sucking everything-- including eating and sleep, not just hobbies and any kind of outside life-- into itself.
So I'm not going to. I'm at work this morning, and I'm glad to be. I have a challenging, creative job in children's books--doing something that matters to me. I'm going to follow through on at least one promise today. And deal with at least three emergencies. And try like hell to get back to several agents.
And if my best is never, not once in my whole career, quite enough, I will at least know that I did my best, all the time, and that is enough.