How To Use Your Mistakes To Achieve Success As A Writer

    Have you ever made a mistake in your writing?

    There isn’t a writer in the world who doesn’t make mistakes occasionally.

    What separates professional writers from amateurs is how they handle mistakes.

    Some writers see mistakes as disasters.

    But if you know the right way to handle them, making mistakes may actually be good for you!

    The more mistakes you make as a writer, the more you learn and the further you will progress.


    My Recent Mistake


    Recently, I made a stupid mistake on my blog.

    I was posting an article titled “How To Find Your True Writing Voice And Why You Need To.”

    The only thing is, when I published the article, I wrote “too” instead of “to” at the end.

    It was a dumb error, and made me look like an amateur.

    What’s worse, I didn’t even realize my mistake until a few people let me know about it. Needless to say, I felt like a complete idiot, especially after thousands of people had already seen the post.

    Here I am blogging about being a professional writer, and I make a silly mistake like that.

    The irony wasn’t lost on me.


    Mistakes are Inevitable in Any Endeavor


    You feel terrible about making a mistake because you wonder what people will think of you for having made it.

    Making mistakes can be embarrassing and potentially damaging to your credibility and reputation.

    There isn’t much you can do about it except try not to make those mistakes, or at least, not to make them twice.

    The problems start when you stop taking action just because you are afraid of making a mistake.

    I won’t lie: I still feel like a complete idiot about it.

    Here’s what goes through my head when I make mistakes like that:

    • I’m an amateur…
    • It’s a joke to call myself a professional writer…
    • How did I think I could be a writer when I can’t even stop myself making rookie mistakes?…
    • I have no business blogging about writing…
    • I deserve to feel bad for making such a mistake…
    • I’m totally useless and I’ll never get anywhere as a writer…
    • I hate myself right now… 


    That’s just a sample of the stream of negativity from my inner critic after I realized my mistake. (It’s even more monotonous in my head than it is on the page.)

    You can probably relate to this kind of self-talk. You might even have indulged in it.

    Even if the mistake is a small spelling error, the blame and vitriol that we direct at ourselves is always disproportionate – and vicious.

    Our inner critic waits in the wings, dying to tell us how we are worthless because we can’t do anything right, how we need to stop kidding ourselves and go back to whatever comfort zone we crawled out of.

    It can be hard not to listen to that voice. It is incessant, and we may come to believe that it is telling the truth.

    But is it telling the truth?

    Of course not!

    The inner critic is a liar who wants you step back into the shadows of your own insecurities and self-doubt for fear of making more mistakes and looking like a fool.

    Here’s a newsflash for you: You can’t succeed without making mistakes!

    Even professionals make mistakes.

    The difference is that professionals don’t let mistakes put a stop to their progress.


    Fail Forward, Not Backwards


    Making mistakes is a big part of the learning process.

    In fact, that’s mostly how we learn – by making mistakes and failing forward.

    What do I mean by failing forward?

    To fail forward is to not be afraid of making mistakes. To fail forward is to have the courage to keep going even after we have made many mistakes.

    I’d go so far as to say it’s the only way forward, the only way to achieve success as a writer.

    Let me tell you right now: if you are afraid of making mistakes, you will never make true progress.

    Why? Because you won’t take risks, you won’t push yourself hard enough. You’ll play it safe and never get very far with your dreams.


    How to Use Your Mistakes


    The reason you feel so bad about making a mistake is because you wonder what people will think of you for having made it.

    Those mistakes may sting a bit at the time.

    They might even hurt like hell for a while, but you will eventually get over them and forge ahead stronger than before.

    Here’s how you can turn a perceived negative into something overwhelmingly positive.


    1. Understand that mistakes are necessary to continued progress.

    The more you push yourself towards continued growth and improvement, the more mistakes you will surely make.

    Accept this.

    In fact, if you aren’t making enough mistakes, you’re probably playing it safe. You won’t get anywhere by playing it safe.

    Understand that mistakes are unavoidable; an essential part of the path to achieve success as a writer.


    2. Learn from the mistake.

    success as a writer

    Every mistake offers a lesson to be learned.

    The lesson I learned from the mistake I made on my blog post was to stop rushing things just to get them out there.

    There’s a lot to be said for speed when it comes to the creative process, but there is a difference between working quickly and being sloppy. I need to learn to not be so sloppy sometimes.

    Look for the lesson in the mistake, and try not to repeat the mistake. It’s about learning from experience, which is always the best way to learn.

    Acknowledge your mistake and move on.


    3. Silence the inner critic by getting back in the saddle as soon as possible.

    success as a writer

    If you make a mistake as a writer, your inner critic will try very hard to prevent you from writing. It may even make you quit writing altogether.

    The best way to silence the inner critic and shut the door on negativity is to sit back down and keep on writing.

    Just as I’m doing now.

    The sooner you can do that, the better.


    Achieve Success as a Writer


    It may not feel like it at the time, but your mistakes are blessings that will eventually help you succeed.

    In your effort to become a professional writer, your real goal is not to “earn X dollars a month” or “publish X books a year.”

    What you’re actually doing is trying to become different – not a different person, but a more authentic version of yourself.

    That’s the thing about making mistakes — it builds character, helps you become strong enough to do what you need to do in order to achieve the tangible, material goals.

    The reward is not the material goal, but the transformation in character that comes along with it.

    The authentication of yourself –that’s the real goal.

    The quicker you realize this, the easier it will be for you to deal with making mistakes. The next time you make a mistake, follow the steps outlined above and try to view the whole experience as positive.

    Even better, try to create something positive from the experience of making that mistake – somewhat like I’m doing here!

    Did you ever make a mistake that put you off writing? Let us know in the comments!

    About the author

      Neal Martin

    • Thank you so much Neal.

      I feel very much connected to your article here because that’s exactly me. I feel so frustrated about the mistakes that I make that I am afraid to write.

      Even though I have written a lot for and Helium, I still feel that I am not that good at writing. I have inspired ideas to pitch with a view to help others (like you do yourself with mentoring about writing), but putting pen and paper at work is still slow. I procrastinate a lot. Besides when the flow of ideas come at once, I have difficulty organizing them because I want my writing to be perfect right at the beginning.

      Thanks for this great encouragement.

    • Bill Cook says:

      P. S. Being a complete idiot is a full time job. I don’t even like part-time work.

    • Bill Cook says:

      Read right too done:
      its dificult two bee a compleet idjut.
      Thanks for the article.
      There might be a rare occasion where a misspelled word places a different meaning to the sentence and yields a new idea to contemplate.

    • NJ Layouni says:

      Good post!

      I frequently make the same kind of silly mistakes on my various social media platforms, but I tend to point them out and laugh them off. Usually the incident generates a spirited debate among my readers. Sure, there are some spiteful souls who love to point fingers and mock, but I sincerely believe that most people in this world are decent.

      We’re all human. We all make mistakes. Fact. What matters is the way we deal with our cock ups.

      Here’s a recent howler spotted by a reader in my latest release: “…as sure as ‘good’ made little green apples…” Ouch! Now this is a MS that’s been looked over by a dozen pairs of eyes, including an editor’s and various betas!

      Beat that if you can! 🙂

    • Tabitha says:

      This was a great read. God knows I have made plenty of mistakes in my writing. I’ll bet there are some on my blog right now as. I am always my own worst critic. The best thing anyone can do is just get back on the horse. Mistakes happen to teach us something in writing and in life. Thanks for sharing your own experience.

    • abc says:

      testing comment

    • You’re right, Elna. Checking for errors can be a tedious and exhausting process, especially with longer works like novels. I’ve lost count how many passes I’ve made at my latest novel, and no doubt someone will still find errors in it when it’s published!

      Thanks for commenting!

    • Elna Cain says:

      Good article Neal. Making mistakes is only human. It’s always a good idea to get another person to edit your work and also use online grammar checkers. Of course, then you have to read it one final time before you hit submit! It can be exhausting at times.
      Just the other week, I left a comment on another blog and made three grammatical errors. It happens, so you just move on. Thanks for the tips!

    • Debra says:

      I read this article after I checked the replies to my homework assignment I submitted recently. In one of the feedback, it said basically while the essay was good work count spot on and how it was otherwise knowledgeable I did have some syntax issues. That statement a few years ago and even months ago would have crippled me causing me to quit.

      Now I am getting tougher and after reading the replies asked for more clarification as to what to do to make it better for next time.

      Syntax has always been something I need to continually be aware of and work at.

    • Very true, Fina. Forgiveness of oneself is a vital part of the process.

    • fina ong says:

      This is really helpful and I agree on all the points raised! We really make mistakes and that’s part of writing as well as life in general. However the worst thing to do when you commit mistake is not to forgive yourself, as you only have yourself to lean on when all else fail. 🙂

    • Hey Neal – you touched on what ran through my head as I read your post and relived some of my own mistakes. My internal critique. The worse I perceived my mistake + the more PUBLIC that mistake is triggers two negative wires in my head:


      These can be hard to combat, but if I work long and hard enough, something always good comes from my mistakes. Thanks for your post.

      • Marcy, you make a good point. Sometimes we forget that mistakes provide the most valuable lessons to learn from. That’s a big upside to the accompanying misery and well worth the short term pain. Sometimes we have to take a step back, detach ourselves from our thoughts and feelings and look at the bigger picture. It’s okay to zoom in and examine what’s going on, but we have to remember to zoom back out again to regain perspective. Staying zoomed in only leads to more misery.

        Thanks for your comments!

        • You’re so right about keeping the big picture in mind, Neal. Thanks for your insights and great post!

    • I love the “fail forwards, not backwards” quote. this is great because EVERY writer will make a mistake some time or another and I think it hurts just a tad more since it’s our pride and joy and personal creativity. I look at it all as a learning process. It was constantly drilled in my head that as a writer, ANY type of writing you put down on paper makes you a better writer. You will eventually learn how to mold and shape it into a unique piece of art. Great post!

    • Wendy S says:

      Thanks for a great article. I think we are usually our own worst critic, especially when we make a mistake. However, I do think some people love to point out when someone makes a mistake. It can be done with kindness and respect or it can be done in a way that feeds all the emotions you talked about. I liked what you said about not letting the fear of making a mistake stop you from trying. While we cannot be sloppy with out writing, there inevitably will be mistakes that happen. I thought it was a great article. Thanks for sharing!

      • Glad you enjoyed the article, Wendy 🙂

        It’s unfortunate that other people can sometimes make us feel worse about the mistakes we make. The same process still applies though. Take the flack as best you can and then move on…maybe after you’ve punched that person in the face lol!

    • Thanks for the great post! It’s helpful to remember that we all make mistakes – even professionals.

      It’s funny, when I see someone else make a mistake, I feel some sympathy and think “aw bummer,” but I definitely don’t think it totally tarnishes that person’s reputation. But when I make the mistake I go through all the negative thoughts you listed.

      I’ve found the best thing to do when I make a mistake is to admit it’s my own, fix it, and move on.

      • The moving on part is definitely important, Maurice. It helps to become conscious of the fact that you will take fire from your inner critic in the form of negativity. If you learn to expect the inner blow back it’s easier to take a step back from it and ride it out until it passes. Then move on as soon as possible.

    • Frances says:

      No more said. True, True, True.

    • Wow. Not only true for writing, but life.

      I want to commend you on using your own experience to teach us all a lesson, without needing to make it ourselves.

      We need more of that openness in our world. We can learn a lot from each other when we stop believing “perfect” is even possible.

      • Thanks Jake. I struggled a little with talking about my mistake but part of writing that article was me getting over my mistake by getting back in the saddle and being open. I knew people would relate because we all make mistakes. It’s just we all think we are the only ones to do so.

        As for perfectionism I hate it. I wage war against it because nothing good comes from it. It just holds people back and makes them feel bad about themselves.

        Glad you enjoyed the post!

    • Rozy says:

      Every writer needs an editor to check for simple errors–things our own eyes don’t see because our mind sees what we think we wrote. It’s just a fact of life that another pair of eyes can make us look better. Another “trick” is to read everything out loud to yourself, I catch many mistakes that way. Thanks for the encouragement to keep going.

      • Yes, editors are essential, especially for longer works like novels. It still amazes me how many mistakes an editor can find even after you make multiple passes at your own work.

        I rarely read my work aloud but I probably should. Good advice!

        Thanks for commenting!

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