“The greatest mistake we make is living in constant fear that we will make one.” ~ John C. Maxwell ~
A little more on perfectionism today because it is why I avoided writing the last week or so. The avoidance began after being involved in a discussion about published books and famous authors.
The discussion started after a friend discovered a mistake in pronoun use in a New York Times best-selling novel. I mentioned I was surprised such a mistake had made it past the editors at a large reputable publishing house. All were in agreement.
The talk then turned to mistakes writers make. Another friend mentioned she is appalled when writers use “comma splices”. Everyone involved in the discussion then began to detail errors they have seen in published books. I stood silent.
As the group broke up for the evening, all I could think was: I do not know what a “comma splice” is, oh my God, and I think I’m a writer? I’m not a writer, or I would know what that is.
I drove home pondering if I should continue to write or give it up completely. To be honest, I was ready in that moment to swear off writing forever. (I had done so once before, after a grade 12 English class with a teacher who terrified me. That swearing off of writing lasted twenty years or more.)
This was also not the first time in more recent history I was having anxiety over my writing. I have Facebook “friends” who are published poets, authors, high school and college level English instructors, spoken word artists, lyricists, Ph. D university professors and creative writing instructors, journalists, and English literature majors. The thought has crossed my mind many times that my writing is not up to their standards, and absolutely I admit it is not.
(Even writing the previous sentence I am thinking: I used the word “that” again. Oh no. I am just proving my own point. Of course I am not a “real writer”.)
The next day a friend who is in my writing group phoned me. I confessed the anxiety I was having because of what occurred the night before. She started laughing and assured me I probably DID know what a comma splice was, I just did not know it by that term. Thanks my friend, I needed to hear your encouraging words.
I took a deep breath; I realized as a reader it is not perfect grammar, punctuation, classic structure, or extensive vocabulary which catches my attention, rather it is authenticity. Granted there are certain standards to be upheld in writing, as in all communication, but I can be forgiving of writers who make some errors if what they have to tell me is authentic. If a piece of writing resonates with me I don’t care if it’s in the form of a cartoon with word bubbles and thought clouds, or a poem with no structure or rhyme.
If I can be forgiving of other writers making mistakes, so must I be forgiving of myself. Part of why I named this blog as I did is because I do want to be wanton, both playful and a bit reckless in my writing. Maybe all along I wanted to send a subliminal message to those seeking perfection in writing – this would not be the place to find it.
P.S. “A comma splice is the use of a comma to join two independent clauses. For example: It is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark. Although acceptable in some languages and compulsory in others (e.g. Bulgarian or French), comma splices are usually considered style errors in English.”