Clean Copy

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“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

Because I’m me, stressing about what I’m going to write here has become close to a daily occurrence.

I just stand in the shower trying to think of different ideas.

Another Open Letter to Shitty Husbands? We’re about due.

Some random, embarrassing story from my past? Those are always fun.

Today? I have to apologize to you for all of the typos and poorly constructed sentences you come across here.

They embarrass me. And I’m sorry.

Virtually everything you read from me is my first draft. Sometimes I write from home. You get a cleaner product when I do.

But most of the time? I’m writing this at my desk at work. Squeezing two hours worth of work into one.

The results are poorly edited, hastily thrown together thoughts and words.

And because I’m hyper-sensitive to what people think of me, I wanted to try to explain why it happens.

I do my best to round up the typos and misspellings, but they inevitably slip through when I first hit ‘Publish.’ If you subscribe via email, that’s the version you get. The very first, shitty one with all the misspellings before I find them and fix them online.

The beauty of the Internet is that I can fix an error anytime I find one. It always hurt more when a mistake was printed in a newspaper story. That just stays there. A non-curable blemish. Of course, at the paper, I always had three, four or five sets of eyeballs on my work, so mistakes rarely were published.

Here? This? It’s just me. Just little old me brainstorming in real-time and hitting that Publish button before I have time to talk myself out of it.

But I need you to know that I care about this from a quality standpoint. That I pride myself on giving you predominantly mistake-free copy, because I know how amateur and non-credible the alternative feels.

But when I proofread my own work, my brain automatically inserts what I meant to write, so a lot of times I don’t immediately see the mistakes others do.

This fact of life means if you’re reading this in your email inbox or are among the first to see whatever I’ve posted next, you end up stumbling on my mistakes.

There were a lot of them in yesterday’s post before I fixed them. And I’m sorry. You deserve better.

Pride in my Work

Everyone wants to be good at something.

I’m not really good at anything.

I’m one of those jack-of-all-trade, master-of-none types.

I’m pretty terrible at some things, I guess. I’m not a good dancer. I’m a wretched singer. I’m a terrible bowler.

But I’m average to decent at the vast majority of things I do.

However, I’m not really great at anything.

Except maybe proofreading and editing. I might be “great” at that. I use the term great loosely here. There are editors out there who are true masters. They’re the ones that turn average writing like this into money-making publishing gold.

I’m not like them.

But in the grand scheme of people? I’m a strong proofreader and a decent editor. I pay attention to detail.

And I take pride in that. Being among the best at something. Even if it isn’t a particularly valuable skill. It’s my skill. It’s what I do.

I know the difference between ‘compliment’ and ‘complement.’

I notice when people spell advisor with an ‘e.’ Adviser is a perfectly acceptable word, too.

And a million other totally anal-retentive things I won’t bore you with.

Typos Ruin Everything

Usually it’s a missing word. The word “to” or “of.” Sometimes I’ll replace “it” with “if” because the T and F keys are next to one another.

Whatever mistake I make, I’m mortified when I find it. The worst one was on one of my busiest-ever traffic days.

At the urging of others, I shared this blog with some people I know in real life via Facebook. A handful of people that aren’t connected to my ex-wife.

The very first post they would have seen is my Hey Parents, You’re Doing It Wrong post. Just a few paragraphs in, I wrote the word “anecdote” when I had meant to say “antidote.” I didn’t notice it for a couple days. Ugh.

Everyone must have thought I was a stupid moron.

That kind of stuff pains me.

Because I do care about the little things. Because I think the little things are important.

The little things are the difference between As and Bs in school.

The little things over an entire career are the difference between a large retirement account and living off government aid.

The little things are the difference between successful marriages and failed ones.

The greatest advertising campaign in the world is shit if a typo slips through.

The Pulitzer Prize is not awarded to mistake-filled copy.

The bookstores don’t make a habit of displaying novels and self-help books and biographies full of spelling errors and horrible writing.

The Lessons of Editing

Editing is the worst. Writers don’t like to do it.

Yet, all the greats will tell you how important it is.

In cinema, they give Academy Awards for it.

It’s hard. It’s time-consuming.

It requires patience. Thoroughness. And always attention to those little things.

My life’s that way, too.

And I wonder if I wasn’t just rushing through, trying to squeeze in as much crap as possible all the time, how much higher the quality might be.

What if I mastered something?

Got in phenomenal physical condition?

Poured every ounce of energy I could into being the best father I could be?

What if I got financially disciplined?

Never let my laundry pile up?

Never let the kitchen floor get dirty?

Maximized my spiritual potential?

I think a lot of what ails me would go away. If I could just muster up the patience and discipline necessary to comb through the details of my life like I would a proofreading assignment.

And clean them up. Taking pride in it along the way.

Maybe everybody could do that.

Maybe we could all do bigger things if we spend more time focusing on the little things.

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164 thoughts on “Clean Copy

  1. rashmivd says:

    Great post! Fun to read and can absolutely relate to it! I’m a new blogger and after rerunning over topics in my head all day managed to get out a few posts. Only to notice typos and spaces in strange places on rereading them! Edit->update! story of my life!
    Your post made my day :)

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you very much!

      I think the metaphor really works for all facets of our lives.

      Edit. Update. Slightly better product.

      Appreciate you reading and commenting. Please do so again!

      Like

  2. Susan Ross says:

    I’m brand new to WordPress and am reading freshly pressed blogs. I read yours. Then I read a bunch more of your posts. I really don’t have much to say about editing – but I did have a strong visceral response to your blog in general.

    You are funny, and smart, and as real as it gets. This is the first blog that has inspired me without intimidating me. Thank you.

    Off topic- keep blogging and being you. You will be remarried within a year to someone who adores funny men, and children. Your ex-wife is an idiot. Carry on!

    Like

    • Matt says:

      It was so nice of you to take time to write this. And it’s something beyond flattering that you thought I stood out in a group of exceptional and talented people.

      This note made my day. I appreciate you reading, your kindness and encouragement. A lot. I hope you stick around.

      Like

  3. PR person here! I’m so anal retentive about spelling. The worst is when you proofread an email 50 times before pressing ‘send’, then STILL checking it out in my Sent folder to find that I made an annoying typo. Why did it take pushing the ‘send’ button to find that typo when I looked over the draft 50 times? Bane of my existence. Good read!

    Like

  4. Excellent, excellent post!

    It’s rare to find someone who cares enough these days to go back and edit these types of things in their posts. I, and I’m sure many others, really appreciate it…

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. I JUST hit “Publish” on today’s post thinking it was perfectly clean. Found THREE mistakes on the read-through.

      And there’s the problem. Everyone getting an email will read that one. And I’ll look stupid. And I’ll deserve it for not being careful enough.

      It’s not a battle that can be won. But I’ll keep fighting hard.

      Really appreciate you reading and commenting. Thank you!

      Like

  5. Shoes Summerfield says:

    Great post! I remember back in my business consulting days had a silly typo that spell-check of course missed. I meant to type “Self Simulate” (getting a pilot group to simulate an actionable item for their colleagues). Funny how no one wanted to “Self Stimulate” for their peers that day…LOL!

    Like

  6. jcapz says:

    Great post and very fun to read. I really appreciate how real you’re writing is. The funny thing is what caught me was the title. I’m fairly new with my blog and I wrote a post called “Yes The Little Things Are Important” about dating and relationships and thought it was about the same exact topic. I am so happy I read your post because you took the little things about all of life in general. I look forward to reading all of your other and future posts.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you so much for the kind comment and for taking time to poke around.

      Human relationships are the thing I care most about in the world. And yes. The little things.

      Taking nothing for granted. Gratitude. Unselfishness. Honesty.

      They’re the glue for those interested in making it long-term.

      I appreciate your time very much. Thank you, again.

      Like

  7. Randee says:

    I like it. Gets me thinking. About the things in my life that need a little editing. Revision, maybe? I like any blog that gets me thinking, so thank you. Oh, and I had to look up antidote. I was pretty sure I knew what it meant, but I never use that word and I use anecdote/anecdotal a lot since I’m a teacher (anecdotal notes).

    Like

  8. Just a Little Background Noise says:

    Good stuff Sir.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      I appreciate you reading! Thank you!

      Like

      • Just a Little Background Noise says:

        You write well. Look forward to settling in and devouring more.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Thank you very much. I’m forever insecure about what people think of it. And it’s always so nice to hear when someone likes it.

          I know you have a million things to do. And that you’d spend any free time at all reading something I wrote is an incredible honor.

          I don’t take it for granted. Thank you.

          Like

          • Just a Little Background Noise says:

            I’m always looking for solid, effective prose to direct students too also. There can be a tendancy for too many to forego a touch of elegance in their craft. You avoid being sterile and it reads effortlessly. So you’re welcome

            Like

            • Matt says:

              Please don’t poison their minds with my immaturity!

              When I’m not whining about divorce or contemplating some questionable choice from my past, I’m usually writing things I pray no one I know in real life is reading.

              And some are. Miraculously, a few still speak to me.

              Like

  9. npaigex says:

    Reblogged this on slightheights and commented:
    100% me on this website.

    Like

  10. Reading the what you wrote backwards is an old copy writer’s trick for locating typos and other turds that can mar hard work.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Yes! And a good one. Back in the newspaper days when we’d print out the dummy sheets and mark them with red pens, I always did this.

      My problem is more impatience than it is a lack of attention to detail. I should read through every post like it’s the last thing I’ll ever get to write and make sure I’m perfectly satisfied with the finished product.

      But I am forever me. Often in a hurry. Often impulsive. And of course, sometimes scared so I have to click the button before I talk myself out of it.

      Like

  11. Caitlin May says:

    I, like you, squeeze my writing in whenever I can.

    It’s so time consuming, but so worthwhile to edit. I always, always find mistakes.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you so much for reading.

      I think that’s all life is. Finding mistakes. Fixing them. Trying to do better the next time.

      I appreciate you taking the time to comment.

      Like

  12. Krista Lynn says:

    This post surely did resonate with me! Like you, I am a “master-of-none” type. But typos, and generally bad grammar/spelling really get me – mine as well as others. I’m in awe sometimes at the places I’ve caught misspellings – blogs, books, newspapers, websites. In reading a blog the other day, the poster used the word “your” when it should have been “you’re”. I thought it was just an oversight until I read on and saw it was consistently used throughout the post. Yes, it pains me. Man, I wish I could make some money correcting all those errors! Love “your” writing, Matt! Keep it up, I’ll be back!!!

    Like

  13. Krista Lynn says:

    Ok, now I’m being really OCD, but I don’t know how my previous comment got broken up!
    And I can’t fix it (yikes!)! LoL…

    Like

  14. […] they were among the many new followers picked up when a post I wrote about Clean Copy was widely circulated by WordPress, and they quickly discovered my personal stories weren’t their […]

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  15. wellreadrose says:

    Well done! I too have a near-visceral reaction when noticing my errors seconds after hitting “publish.” I’m pretty new to this blogging thing, and I also ponder my words in the shower then rush to rehash my ideas into something interesting in a short period of time. I always worry that I sound like an idiot. Or an ass. Thanks for the show of solidarity!

    Like

  16. Hope Newby says:

    Loved the article. Many years ago, I emailed a friend about a few pet peeves of mine, one of which was “type-os”.
    Totally embarrassed when I caught it and I still roll on the floor laughing when something, such as this blog post, brings it to mind.

    Like

    • Matt says:

      Thank you for taking the time to read it!

      If I was grammatically savvy enough, I’d probably have a stroke and die if I knew just how many writing rules I was breaking in every post.

      Because sometimes I intentionally do. Because I write silly, choppy sentences. Instead of using commas like a good boy.

      However, I’m sure all the times I’m trying to follow the rules, I’m failing miserably.

      Like

  17. […] wrote a post titled “Clean Copy” […]

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  18. […] wrote a post called Clean Copy which WordPress chose for Freshly Pressed. I didn’t think the post was very good. But it was the […]

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  19. […] time I wrote a post about how all the typos I was writing and publishing were getting emailed to people. I was mortified. The post was me apologizing to you for shoddy […]

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  20. […] once wrote a post called Clean Copy apologizing to readers for the crappy, typo-infested posts I was […]

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  21. […] Punch them another and you end up with my drivel. […]

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  22. lovelimess says:

    Why stress about writing here? Most of the invested readers are only looking for something to twist into support for their fallacies… plotting a kidnapping > grammatical errors

    Liked by 1 person

    • Matt says:

      Ha! Hi. You’re reading all kinds of old stuff.

      This is more than two years old. And at the time, I wrote EVERY DAY here, pretty much, and it was sort of my life’s focus.

      I was a total mess and I stressed about everything. Hopefully you can detect a tone difference between 2013 me, and today.

      That was such a wise, albeit cynical observation: “Most of the invested readers are only looking for something to twist into support for their fallacies.”

      I’m going to think about that one for a while.

      Tell you what. To compensate for my unnecessary fretting, I’ll spend a few hours today plotting a kidnapping.

      Equilibrium, and all that.

      (Edited to spell “equilibrium” correctly. Clean copy, indeed.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • lovelimess says:

        Reading between the lines…nope not my ex.
        He wouldn’t try and kidnap kids that he has never tried to contact. And he’d need to be married to Mother Theresa for any court to allow his opinion on children.
        Maybe my vehicle will not get BBQ’d again. Ooooh the suspense.

        Like

        • Matt says:

          Wait. What!?

          Don’t give me credit for cleverness that doesn’t exist. I was just having fun and joking that I’d plot a fake kidnapping instead of worrying about silly things like blogging.

          I was totally joking. Poorly, apparently.

          And now I don’t know what we’re talking about, but your stuff sounds kind of scary.

          “Someone” torched your car?

          Like

          • lovelimess says:

            Nah, no worries. I wasn’t giving you credit for anything. I think we were talking about orgasms…no, just me? Okay…The BBQ was a long time ago and I’m sure it was an accident. Don’t move to California (or Nevada). The dudes are not super bright…can’t even bbq right.

            Like

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