On Editing Like Hostess Cora
Years ago, I worked as a hostess at a popular chain restaurant. I was Cora, the controller of the board. Perhaps you’ve noticed these boards during a visit to a restaurant. Sitting on top of the host’s stand, is an aerial view of the restaurant’s dining room. This board gives the hostess the information needed to seat guests in the appropriate server’s station. The Cora tells the Flora, the hostess watching the floor and seating customers, where to take the next party. There is also Dora, the hostess who stands at the door, greeting guests and sometimes handing out pagers. Cora is in a position to positively or negatively affect the way the restaurant runs. If Cora seats too many guests at one time, the servers get in the weeds–behind on their steps of service. The kitchen is hit with too many orders at once, stressing the back of the house staff. On popular holidays, this is inevitable, but a skilled Cora can ease the pain.
On one particularly busy Valentine’s Day, I was Cora. The foyer of the restaurant was neck deep in anxious couples who wanted a table. This restaurant did not take reservations. I had to use my handy formula for determining the wait time–usually 2-5 minutes per party. Using the conservative scale–2 minutes–the 5th party in line had a 10 minute wait. On this day, I was quoting wait times of 60-90 minutes. My guests were hungry and losing that loving feeling. In the chaos that ensued, I kept my cool. I dealt with each party cordially and professionally. I didn’t let the grumbles of guests get to me. I had reached a sort of Hostess Cora Zen state.
“How do you remain calm?” asked one guest who had been waiting for awhile. “Hmm, I don’t know,” I said. “The more chaotic it becomes, the more peaceful I become.” He gave me a strange but awe-filled look. I imagined him wondering, What manner of hostess is this? The general manager often remarked how skilled I was at this position: “When Myesha is Cora, the restaurant runs so smoothly,” “You take care of everyone, the back of the house and the front of the house,” “When I’m in the kitchen, I can tell when Myesha is Cora without laying an eye on her.” These comments gave me joy, of course. I tend to flourish in high pressure situations.
This experience as Cora came to my mind recently when I was contemplating the task at hand: editing my manuscript. Yes, I repeat, “I am editing my own manuscript.” I paraphrased a popular quote to sum up how I feel about this. “An author who edits her own book has a fool for a client.” This is my reality, and I will soldier on, fool that I am. I have one reader, my husband, whom I appreciate immensely. He finished reading my first draft even though reading isn’t at the top of his leisure to do list. I surreptiously put it on the top of his “honey do,” list. But who is more biased than your spouse?
I now realize that I can pull from this same reservoir of zen that helped me be a stellar Hostess Cora. After months of deliberating, I made the decision to play the fool. But I will have the last laugh if I garner my Hostess Cora prowess while editing. Who knew that a hostess and editor shared the same skill set? I have all the editing resources I need. I have the time and space to edit. Now I need the calmness and peace of mind it takes to be alert, diligent, and patient enough to edit my own work. Each day when I sit down to edit, I must meditate on it. Breathe deeply. Focus on the words. Root out grammatical and spelling errors. On the second pass, I must look for plot inconsistencies and disjointed places in the narrative. On the third pass, I must read the entire manuscript aloud. The task at hand is doable if I become Zen Cora and not give in to impatience.
Currently, I am one third of the way through my first pass. I can do this!
In the future, I will get an editor but for now, “Table for one?”