Monday, February 09, 2015

Mistakes happen

I hope my high school English teacher didn’t read last week’s column. If she did, I can expect
My senior English teacher
her to “slap me naked’ and hide my clothes” the next time she sees me. Both Jilda and I missed a goofy grammar error. It also slipped by the editor.

Sitting on the sofa last Sunday morning enjoying a rich cup of coffee, I flipped open the paper. My eyes jumped straight to the error in my column as if they were the only words on the page. I’m trying to up my writing game, so that error was like a sucker punch to the stomach.

I guess I shouldn’t be too hard on myself because everyone makes mistakes, but most people don’t have thousands of readers seeing the mistake in black and white.

I could imagine some of my friends, who are also writers, snorting coffee out of their noses when they saw my error. Thankfully, they are a kind bunch, and none of them took to social media or sent me chiding emails.

Most of the time, I write in the sanctuary of my office, with its familiar photographs on the walls and pencils in a teacup with teeth marks from years of contemplative gnawing. When weather permits, I’m on my screen porch with a backdrop of chirping birds and chimes tinkling in the breeze.

I wrote this piece with my laptop balanced on my knees as I flew across America on my flight to Orange County, California.

Being away from home and out of my element is no excuse for shoddy work, but telling myself that last Sunday when I discovered the error was comforting.

I think we are often harder on ourselves than other people are.

Mistakes come in all shapes and sizes. Some people make mistakes calculating their budgets and wind up with too much month left at the end of their money.

Mistakes in judgment can be costly. The late John F. Kennedy put it as eloquently as any when he said, “The time to fix the roof is when the sun is shining.” That’s a lesson worth learning.

Making mistakes is part of life and everyone makes them.

I think the best thing to do once we realized we’ve messed up is to recognize the error, take responsibility, try to figure out how to do better next time and move on.

Here’s the thing: I think the fear of making a mistake is something that stops many people from pursuing their dreams.

“I could never do that, I might mess up and look stupid.” It’s heartbreaking how often I’ve heard that. As a result, talented people who could do remarkable work choose to leave their work undone.

I’d rather take a chance on looking stupid and put my work out there than to reach the end of my life without leaving my mark.

Ms. Martin, I know you taught me better in the class I took with you in 1968, so if you need to whack me the next time we meet, I will understand.


  1. There are far worse things than looking stupid and I agree that the best way of dealing with a stupid mistake is to figure out how to do better next time and move on. Not always easy to do of course but it's the way to go.

    Ms Soup

  2. Much worse, is to be like myself and others, and not know it was a mistake.. (OUCH)

  3. I stopped kicking myself for my mistakes years ago. There were just too many of them. Now I just laugh at myself.

  4. I do not make mistakes in my head, but I do have a lot of typo's.

  5. Since being online I have almost completely done away with punctuation. My mother has probably become a whirling dervish as she spins in her grave. She insisted that I use proper grammar when speaking and proper punctuation when writing. I know how to do it but I feel like it is a waste of time. Of course if I were writing for publication I would clean it up and do it correctly.

  6. You're right! Everyone makes mistakes...we learn from them and move on with what we're meant to do. Letting grammar mistakes hold you back from what you're meant to do would be the biggest mistake of all. When we read and re-read what we've written, we sometimes don't see our own mistakes because we're too close to our own work. Sometimes reading with a ruler under one line at a time helps us focus better. Also, having others proofread helps as well. Or just setting it aside and reading it again later. But mistakes happen and life goes on...not a tragedy...a tragedy would be a great writer giving up because of those mistakes!

  7. I don't think you need worry lol
    When I see how managers and presidents of companies write today, I kinda get irritated because we were punished for not dotting our i's and crossing our t's and today they write in
    a new language altogether like: y r u worrying? No one cares about spelling or punctuation and fish turn into fishes, color vs colour......but I am still proud of the things I learned.
    My old teachers taught me something worth doing, is worth doing well.One day a light will shine and a new generation will rediscover an old idea and it will resurface. As they say, fads come and go but nothing replaces the classy black dress.

  8. Making mistakes is human, starting wars is stupid.

    I make so many mistakes and typos because I rush too much but it's nothing like the younger generation is doing now. It's a totally different language.

    Keep on writing anyway.

  9. We all make mistakes. I am sure Ms.Martin will understand.

  10. Mistakes are made by many but some people do not like to admit they make mistakes and have to say I am not one of them if I stuff I am fast to blame someone else.

  11. Every time I write a post, I review it over and over. And my husband (official Flipside proofer) will still find one. It's like I'm blind to them.

  12. I find it interesting how I can read my planned blog posts over and over again and not see a glaring error but like you said, it jumps right out at you as soon as it's published. We need better editors. ;) To err is human... to write like you do.. sublime.

  13. I feel better after having read your comments. It's comforting to know that I'm not alone :)

  14. Hey Hick, Don't worry I made one at least once every day or two! LOL
    gosh I crack myself up... Really, you can delete this one if you want...
    Hey, You and Jilda have a great Valentines Day

  15. The English teacher I had for the most classes in high school is dead. Thank God. She always made it clear to me that I was a disappointment.


  16. What an entertaining read, Rick!
    Ya, I'm sure we tend to be harder on ourselves than is sometimes called for. Sometimes I wish I might don a 'dunce hat' or wear a sandwich board to assuage the embarrassment. Only, no-one probably even noticed in the first place!

    Glad to know I'm not the only one who chews pencils!


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