Tips For Writers By Neal Martin 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. 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. 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!