Made a writing mistake? It’s okay—you’re still cool (because editing)
I’ve been writing full-time on a professional basis for almost two decades. In that time, I’ve written two books, hundreds or reports, and thousands of articles.
To publish that amount of work, I’ve also committed tens of thousands of mistakes. Maybe more. My last book alone contained thousands of errors after my editor bled all over it. On top of that, I was born with bad diction, and am subjected to nasty hate mail after some of my mistakes.
Why am I telling you this?
Because in both life and writing, mistakes are an everyday thing. In fact, the latter happen every minute. That’s because language and communication are incredibly complex, even for professionals like me who get paid to write fewer mistakes than you do. The sooner you accept, if not embrace, mistakes, the better writer you’ll be.
As I once explained, “I’m always exploring language. Testing it. Seeing how it sounds. I use everyday speech as an incubator, not a performance. So when poor diction or errors slip into my work, it’s always an honest mistake.”
Sometimes that happens after I publish something. In those cases, I quickly correct the offending error, and/or add a note at the bottom of an article if I misreported something. But most of the time, errors are caught in the editing process. Not all of them, mind you. But most of them.
To that end, one of the biggest parts of my job as a consulting writer is assuring people (even senior executives) that it’s okay to make mistakes. “But what if I offend someone with my mistake?” many fear. “There’s a 99% chance we’ll catch those mistakes in the editing process,” I reassure them. “So take risks and use daring words now so the writing can reach more readers, who prefer bold and spicy writing to the alternative.”
For the 1% of mistakes that still make it through? To that I say, done is better than perfect. If you wait for 100% perfection, you’ll produce significantly less work in life and suffer from debilitating anxiety. Secondly, I’m not aware of any professions that have zero tolerance for mistakes. Even brain surgeons make them.
You will too. And that’s okay. As my 10 year old son Max recently said after he and his basketball teammates made a lot of mistakes in a 25 point loss, “It’s okay—we’re still cool.”
Max is write (wink). Everyday mistakes do not define us. Better yet, mistakes can be reduced to an acceptable level by anyone willing to participate in the “editing” process. So never let mistakes keep you from from starting, harnessing, and someday mastering a talent. Writing very much included.—Blake Snow