“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.