I’ve been living in InDesign the past week or two. It’s not my favorite neighborhood but it’s where I have to go to make my book. This is the fourth one I’ve made soup-to-nuts and the repetition has helped. I still make a lot of mistakes but correct much faster. there’s muscle memory now. Still, I haven’t developed much love for this program or for the company which makes it.

Half the dread of using InDesign is turning it on. Because you can no longer just buy the damn thing, no, you have to “subscribe” to it. Adobe insists you pay monthly or yearly. Why does book-design software have to be sold like a newspaper? Is there a new tool or updated every day, week, month? Maybe there is but I sure as hell don’t need it and will likely never use it. I just want to cut-and-paste words and pictures onto a couple hundred pages so the printer knows what goes where.

There are hundreds of features in the program that I don’t know, can’t use, and can rarely even locate. At the bottom of the window, for instance, is a red dot which counts up all the mistakes I make as I go. There’s a dropdown tab next to it but it doesn’t detail these errors. In fact, I’ve never been able to locate where the explanations of my mistakes are. I do notice I make fewer with each new book. I’m down to single digits with Old Style.

This part of book assemblage scratches the same itch that maintaining a website or making a playlist or deleting email does. It’s tedious organizing busy-work. It turns off the part of me that’s engaged when I paint or write. It’s a break from creativity necessary to recharge whatever the battery is that powers the real work.

The program is staggeringly unintuitive. Four books in I still can’t figure out how to set the font so it doesn’t revert to some bizarre default every time I go to paste in a new paragraph. I know a tech native will roll their eyes at my ineptitude. Remember, I don’t even know how to use Word. I’m still using work-arounds from my days at Kinko’s literally cut-and-pasting manually-typed fragments around ink drawings.

But somehow I’ve ended up with another actual whole real-seeming book. It’s been bittersweet this time around because it feels like the end of something. It is definitely the last book I’ll make in this 5×7 inch hardcover, foil-stamped format. It might be the last book for awhile. I have no big next idea. And the prospect of filling up my place with fifty more boxes of books which will likely sit gathering dust for years is already filling me with a measure of dread.

There has to be some other way but I don’t know what it is. If you have any ideas, I’m all ears.