Fighting the demons: typos

The missing the: just one of the many typos in my book

I started acting when I was four years old and by the time I was five, directors had nicknamed me “One Take Jake” because I tended to be well-prepared and didn’t usually need more than one take. I’ve always prided myself on my ability to get in there and get it done. Get the shot. Nail it the first time.

But this means I give myself very little wiggle room when it comes to making mistakes.

I could not be more thrilled that my book is being published, and the day it went to print was overwhelming/exciting/terrifying. Then, a few days later, I started recording the audio book. In recording the audiobook and reading each one of my words out loud – I came face to face with my demons.

Typos.

I found typos.

I had read through the final version of my book at least four times, but some typos got through. My husband read it, but some typos got through. My publisher’s editor and proofreader read it, but some typos got through.

How have I dealt with this discovery of typos?

I decided I didn’t want to publish my book anymore.

I decided I didn’t deserve to call myself a writer.

I decided that the years of hard work that I put into this were worthless because the book is completely ruined.

I’ve been essentially having a temper tantrum, like a toddler who dropped her ice cream cone. I’m frustrated that I didn’t catch these typos and I’m worried that readers will think I’m dumb. I want to run and hide in shame. But there is nothing I can do about these typos – the book is printed. If we do another printing, we can fix them, but there is simply nothing else to be done about it.

That’s the thing about life. We can’t always go back and fix our mistakes. Sometimes we just have to surrender to whatever it is, even if that means accepting that we are disappointed. But being disappointed is not going to kill us.

The Serenity Prayer might be cliché at this point, but it is so very valid. I just make a slight edit to it:

God grant me the serenity to accept the [typos] I cannot change; the courage to change the [typos] I can; and the wisdom to know the difference.

I have a hard time accepting the perfectionist label for  myself because I don’t feel the need to be perfect all the time. I don’t care about my hair or makeup or clothes, I don’t care if my house looks like the Pottery Barn catalogue or if I have whatever thing is the cool thing. But I do care about my work. It’s the thing that I feel most vulnerable about. It is an expression of my soul, and apparently, I want it to seem perfect.

Brené Brown talks a lot about perfectionism. It is essentially the idea that if you are perfect and have everything under control all the time, that you will escape criticism, blame and ridicule. It’s a shield that we carry around, thinking that it will protect us. But all that shield does is weigh us down and keep us from really being seen. It doesn’t protect us from suffering at all, it just masks our authentic selves. It’s different from healthy striving, which is internally focused – perfectionism is driven by the fear of what other people will think.

It’s pretty clear which of these I’m dealing with.

I have caused myself a massive amount of suffering over these damn typos. My perfectionism is causing pain, not protecting me from it. And when I look around me, there is not a single person in my life that I love because they are “perfect.” There is no one I respect more because they seem to do everything right. If anything, the people I love and respect are the ones that screw up and laugh it off, the ones who do things in a way that works for them, regardless of what anyone else thinks.

So, of course, I’m still going to publish the book. It just has some mistakes in it. I tried my best, but I’m not perfect. I’m not One Take Jake anymore. I’m just me. I’m messy and I’m whatever is the opposite of a Grammar Nazi (a bunny rabbit who takes creative license?) and I don’t write perfect, typo-free sentences. I write sentences that are full of life and passion and sometimes an extra word gets thrown in with all that excitement, or I forget to add an article. And although I do know the difference between chose and choose – that one got by me, too.

I hope you enjoy the book, anyway. Because typos and all – it’s just me.

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If you want to know more about Brené Brown’s work, check out The Gifts of Imperfection. I reread it in two days during my Typo Breakdown Spiritual Awakening.

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25 thoughts on “Fighting the demons: typos

  1. RELAX! 99% of the readers won’t even notice the typos, and the others will simply skip past them. The book will be great and I can’t wait to read it.

  2. 🙂 I think we can all relate to this. I have an online weekly novel going, and my mom sends edits for me to fix after I publish it. (I don’t share with her in advance because I want her to be surprised, and also because I make changes up until the last minute) Most of the changes were just sentence structure preferences so I wasn’t too bothered by them, but the very last edit was “you’re” instead of “your.” I about died when I saw that. How embarrassing. The funny thing is that I’m a musician also and in music I have more fun when I don’t really know the song because there is always the chance to mess it up. It makes it more exciting. I don’t take it so seriously because I can see the beauty in the whole creative process. I love to hear singers’ voices crack, and random notes. It makes it more real to me. But somehow with writing, there is this fear that everyone will think I’m an idiot when I use the wrong spelling. Good luck with the book, and congratulations!

  3. In this world of idiosyncrasies, I, as a perfectionist, choose to not dwell or worry about making the rest of the world a perfect place. It’s simply not gonna happen. Yes, I notice every misspelled word, every grammar goof and hear meetings even from the newscasters on TV, but I’ve come to the reality that it’s not healthy for me to worry about it because, as you said, and I know…NOBODY’S PERFECT…AT ALL. Let it be and enjoy the content of the story being told…it will provide a much richer experience to hear how other people are normal like me. I’ll read from your heart. Promise! (Can’t wait! I would not want a corrected version by the way!) It’s more genuine the way it is.

  4. Welcome to the real world of imperfection. Now you are one of us. One of the human race. You are a great writer, It is not perfection that makes a great writer, it is the message of the book. That is what makes a great writer. That is what you have to offer. thank you! alan

  5. Last month I was chosen to sing a solo in my choir. I was SO worried that I wouldn’t do it perfectly, that eventually another girl had to sing it. She didn’t do it perfectly (for my standards) but everyone praised her, and I felt frustrated. I hope I can overcome my perfectionism someday.

  6. Living with typos is a challenge for many of us. Sounds like you have come through–scarred, yes, but victorious!

  7. PS: I think the illusion that our NEXT article or book is going to be absolutely perfect–totally free of mental errors, misstatements, and even of typos–is one of the things that keeps many of us publishing. I believe it was John Updike who said some such thing not long before he died. An illusion? Yes, because based on wishful thinking rather than realistic analysis; but a constructive illusion!

  8. I was reading a book over the weekend and I found a typo: “pubic” instead of public. I was laughing maniacally, not because I was glad for the author’s misfortune, but because it made all my glaring typos less glaring, at least to me.

  9. Oh. I’m right there with you. I hate typos–especially when I am e-mailing my WRITING students! I would like to just stick my head in a whole!

  10. I love this, because I completely relate to it! I get so embarrassed when I realize I’ve made a typo on something ANYONE else is going to read. But it’s true…most of the general population isn’t going to judge us based on perfect sentences…Sometimes it helps others form a connection with the writer, and remember that they’re just people. Just like everyone else 🙂

  11. There are psychological reasons why it is difficult to catch your own typos. The other proofreaders have no excuse.

  12. Oh my gosh, typos are the purest, purest dread in my job so I totally understand! I’m an editor of a children’s magazine, and once I’ve got the magazine complete, I go through it carefully and catch my first round of mistakes. I pass it on to four other colleagues who proceed to cover it in stickies pointing out glaring typos and errors that I felt I should have caught the first time which is always frustrating! Once I feel like it is totally polished and perfect, I turn it in to our editorial director… The feeling of handing in my months work to the only person in the company that truly matters still gets to me after 8 years! It is exactly as you say, baring your soul! Even though it’s just my job, you want people to know you do a damn good job, and you feel any mistake, typos or otherwise, reflect on you as a person. After the anxious wait for my proof to land back on my desk, my ‘polished and perfect’ issue comes back flagging up more errors and typos – after 5 pairs of careful eyes have already checked it! I’ve accepted it’s just part of the job and no matter how hard you look for errors and typos, there are just some that determinedly slip through, yet it still amazes me how! I’ve had my fair share of sinking feelings in my stomach when the issue comes back from the printers and I spot an error, be it major or minor, it is incredibly disappointing (and on occasion, terrifying, depending on what you’ve done!). These things happen and most people won’t and don’t notice, and the ones that do notice, know you are only human, and the ones that can be bothered to complain, really have nothing better to be doing! I truly can’t wait to read it!

    PS- Apologies for the essay! Can you tell that your post struck a nerve?! Hehe 🙂

  13. If it makes you feel any better (I doubt it will but I may as well try 🙂 ) I can’t think of a book I’ve read in the last few years that didn’t have at least one typo. Most had quite a few more than one so you are not alone. Again, not alone in more ways than one. I too struggle with perfectionism at times. The funny part is that like you, there are so many things that I don’t need perfect but the ones I do drive me crazy. Your advice is good, though as is so often the case, not exactly easy to follow. I do try to let go though.

  14. Typos happen, more than we think.

    Mostly because if the first and last letter of the word are right, our brains will correct it while we read.

    Keep up the good work.

  15. Mam. I am a big fan of your writings. You are like a role model to me. I really appreciate and love your work. Good luck for your book and future.
    I have gone through a lot of your articles and found out that you are very much passionate about telling your stories and inspire people. Even I have stories to tell but don’t know the correct way. Seeking for your help and reply. Thank you.

  16. You wrote this over a year ago, but I have to comment.

    If I find typos in my book once it’s been published, I won’t survive. I literally will forget how to breathe.

    Never mind that my book hasn’t been written yet, that I’m still working on the first chapter. I’m already worrying about typos.

    Anything but typos, please!!

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