I have finished writing The Finger: A Handbook, and can scarcely believe it. Some authors chug along in an orderly way. For others the final onslaught is like scaling Annapurna on the double. I belong in the second category, and I wish I didn’t. To some extent when you tackle the final leg and you also have a full-time job, you are more or less taking on two at once. So lately I have been getting up at a quarter to four in the morning; making the first of three pots of tea, and working until 7:30 a.m. It’s the only way to do it because at work the phone will keep ringing, the e-mails never stop, and there are meetings to attend and plenty of routine work to do. In any case, I am very glad of a little breathing space between now and six weeks hence when the copy editor returns his or her corrections with the manuscript. In my experience copy editors rarely if ever give much away in terms of any larger opinions as to the quality of the work, which seems a little surprising since, of course, they spend the entirety of their professional lives reading and tidying up other people’s books so you would think that they might easily spill opinions. I daresay they prefer to leave that aspect to the commissioning editor, and him alone. That is probably a good thing. Although there is a little post partum sadness when the thing has gone, the exhilaration you feel while the pages come churning out is quite intoxicating. It brings to mind that remark of Flannery O’Connor along the lines of "how do I know what I think until I read what I wrote?" Certainly in my case the task of writing them down powerfully shapes the thoughts as I go along, and not the other way around. And now for a little breathing space.