I'm an editor, and the publishing house I work at has a huge conference once a year at which we sell our books. The conference is in one month, which means that all our new books have to be printed by then in order to be available for sale. It takes one month to print a book, which means all our books have to be at the printer by tomorrow. Four of these new books are mine--I'm in charge of getting them "to press," or to the printer, in time.
Usually, I put about one book to press per month. Tomorrow, I have to do four in one day. It's a tad stressful. However, I've come up with some helpful imagery to get through it.
Imagine the four books are four cows. The four cows and I are standing in a very big, fenced-in field. There is a chute at the end of the field, and my job is to herd all the cows through the chute and off to the slaughterhouse.
So, I start waving my arms and jumping up and down, shouting at the cows. They all start moving around, some walking, some running, some heading toward the chute, some running the wrong way. So I begin darting around, first running to one cow and giving it a healthy shove in the right direction (thus getting the proofs to the author for their okay). Then I run to another cow and get it going toward the chute. It flies there! It's a well-written, easy-to-understand cow with a fairly sane author who doesn't want to give me a nervous breakdown, and it returns its proofs before the deadline and plops itself right in front of the chute, ready to walk on through. I pet this cow a lot, because it's so nice.
So it goes, with me, the poor editor, herding my cows ever closer to the chute, some slow, some fast, but all generally going the right direction, with occasional slips to the side or backward, if the typesetter's computer crashes and kills half the files or the author goes on an unexpected vacation without telling me.
Then we get to this morning. This morning, one of my cows not only took off running the wrong way, but it leaped over the fence and took off through the neighbor's cornfield, along with the author's proofs which he said he somehow never received, even though the book is supposed to be finished tomorrow. And despite the three other mostly well-behaved cows doing well, that cow was the one that made me cry.
I'm now off to tell my director of publications that the cow has escaped, and then I have to go get my lasso. Wish me luck.