Why Success as a Writer Won’t Ever Mean Perfection

Mindy McHorse

Did you see the Grammys that aired two weeks ago?

Whether you caught it live on television or relived it through social media clips, you probably know a lot of glitches took place during the show …

Like when super-power vocalist Adele’s piano mic “ker-plopped” onto the piano strings, making for an out-of-tune guitar sound.

Or when singer-songwriter Lauryn Hill didn’t show up for her set, despite announcements by the Grammys she’d be part of a surprise performance.

Add to that the fact that CBS had promoted an All Access livestream of the event that crashed completely just four seconds before the big show …

 … and you’ve got a barrelful of unexpected mistakes by the best in the biz.

Plenty of finger-pointing and snide remarks surfaced on Twitter the day after the show aired. But on the flipside, plenty of fans overlooked the glitches and piped in to celebrate the gifted performances from artists they adore.

You know what I love most about the whole thing? It’s not just that the show had to go on since it was live T.V. It’s not even that so many artists picked up the slack and gave jaw-dropping performances.

No — I love that so many mistakes were made in the first place.

You know, there’s a myth often embraced by new artists (and that includes writers). It’s that once you reach a certain point in your career, you’re beyond mistakes. New writers think veteran writers simply don’t have errors anymore. That once you’ve proven yourself as a successful professional, you’ve pretty much “figured it out” and no longer suffer from missteps.

I’ll admit, I once thought that, too. Just a year into my own writing career, I remember finding a few typos in the e-letter of a very prominent writer. I was shocked. I judged the guy harshly. How can someone so successful and well-known make such a pin-headed mistake?

Now, six years later, and with multiple writing campaigns under my belt, I get it. Even the most professional, intelligent writers still make typos. Sometimes copy can get reviewed by six different people and every one of them will miss the same error.

And sometimes, even the best in the business just screw up.

But you know what separates the real professionals from the amateurs?

Established writers keep right on trucking. They don’t let a typo get them down. They’re not swayed by a flurry of negative comments from readers. They just keep right on writing. Occasional errors are part of the deal.

If you waited to write with complete perfection all the time, you’d be hard-pressed to ever get anything published.

Just like Adele kept right on singing, completely un-swayed, you’ll go far if you can get to the point where little things don’t knock you clear off the success path.

Instead, realize mistakes will happen. Do your best to minimize them, but don’t get waylaid if something goes wrong. Doesn’t matter whether you’re dealing with balky audio or a misplaced comma. If you want true success in the writer’s life, the show must go on.

Or you can take Adele’s approach and roll with it. After the Grammy’s, the singer-extraordinaire tweeted the explanation for the pitchy performance, said stuff like that happens, then added, "Because of it though … I'm treating myself to an In-N-Out. So maybe it was worth it."

Thought? Opinions? Questions? Please share below.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: March 1, 2016

17 Responses to “Why Success as a Writer Won’t Ever Mean Perfection”

  1. I am a credentialed member of the media, entertainment personality, general entertainment consultant and a photojournalist.Live here in LA run a blog ankhentertainmentone dot net partner of YOu Tube.com/15 Minutes Osiris Munir.

    Wrote quality content for 4 years, back page, front and middle page coverage for the a local newspaper, the Culver City News. At first I was trying to build up an audience although I had written as a published writer for magazines years previously.Was offered ad space.

    Guest (Osiris Munir)March 1, 2016 at 12:56 pm

  2. As many know, Adele likes to be known as the "girl next door" and that's what I believe most people relate to and love about her.
    She is the true professional and by no means a new kid on the block and can take these happenings in her stride.
    Her voice is certainly exceptional and she does not rely on frills and gimmicks when faced by the public.
    There's a lesson there for many present and future stars.

    Guest (John Chapman)March 1, 2016 at 1:16 pm

  3. I completely agree that we will continue to make mistakes throughout our life and career - and some of them will go irrevocably 'public'. What makes me crazy is when professionals promoting leadership don't get another set of eyes on their websites and/or don't correct the glaring errors that they've put in print - once they're pointed out.

    Guest (Maraya)March 1, 2016 at 1:22 pm

  4. And you didn't mention Steve Harvey once. lol

    Guest (Scotirish)March 1, 2016 at 1:32 pm

  5. Great article Mindy! One of my favorite speakers at last year's AWAI Bootcamp was Carlene Anglade-Cole's description of her current copywriting project--and the live results on stage--showing the package bombed. Cheers to you for this article, and cheers to Carline for her honesty. It's good for all of us to be reminded that an occasional mistake is part of the ongoing journey. Or as a friend of mine stated, if you're never making any mistakes it just means you're not doing enough.

    Donna KaluzniakMarch 1, 2016 at 1:39 pm

  6. Thanks Mindy for your words of encouragement..I have just started the accelerated program and I am writing my first direct response exercise."Puptastic Naturals"..When I get my first successfull client..my pay will be used to attend the training sessions.."boot camp" and meet Joshua and the many others aspiring writers..

    Guest (Signora)March 1, 2016 at 2:11 pm

  7. I tend to ask myself: In a day… week… a month… will anyone even remember it? I learn from it, and forget it. Focusing on a mistake beyond the education factor only affects self-confidence and the confidence others have in me.

    Brad DunseMarch 1, 2016 at 2:27 pm

  8. Thank you Mindy. I couldn't agree more. I am currently unemployed, but rather than throw in the towel, I get up every day with the same goals - keep pursuing 'the writer's life', and find a job. Now, if both happen simultaneously, that would be ideal... The best of both worlds, so to speak. But I press on, regardless. I will ultimately arrive at my intended destination. I wish I could have joined you in Austin - cannot afford it right now - but, I plan to attend in the future.

    Guest (Kevin Thiele)March 1, 2016 at 3:05 pm

  9. Yes! There've been many times that several people have reviewed my copy and still a typo got through. That and other mistakes used to really GET me but as I've aged I've realized that the mistake matters less than what happens next. Be prompt and preemptive with a make-good if needed, and PUSH FORWARD!

    PaulWMarch 1, 2016 at 3:38 pm

  10. Mindy, good thoughts about how mistakes, errors, goofs do happen and it is revealing when true professionals move through those challenges. It does happen in all aspects of life and the real winners are those who take them in stride, learn from those mistakes when possible and still deliver a terrific product.

    Guest (dannyD)March 1, 2016 at 5:49 pm

  11. Take Mindy's advice if you can, people.

    I've always kept on working, but every significant writing mistake I've ever made (I don't count most typos, or similar small stuff) haunts me like Banquo's ghost. They pop up to terrify me whenever stakes are high. Have about the same effect as Banquo's appearances did on Macbeth -- crippling action.

    You can't be all you can be until you're unhaunted by old mistakes. But I haven't found a way to exorcise mine yet.

    Marcia March 1, 2016 at 6:14 pm

  12. With over 35 years in data processing, it became obvious to me that mistakes are the best teachers. Lots of people learn "the right way" from many sources, but by making and fixing their mistakes, they sharpen their understanding of "the right way".

    The best computer programmers I've ever known are those whose mistakes forced them to get "under the covers" and dive into the nitty gritty of how things work. I'm sure this applies to other areas beyond computer programming.

    Dick EMarch 2, 2016 at 6:52 am

  13. Excellent article, Mindy, as usual. But there's no apostrophe in "Grammys". Given the subject of the article, you did that on purpose. Right? Right? (Just nod and roll with it.) Sorry, I couldn't resist. Too many years as a proofreader, I guess. :-)

    Guest (Joe Martin)March 2, 2016 at 9:31 am

  14. Sure, people make mistakes. But if you're gonna make great margins you gotta know on whom which mistakes matter most. For example, if spelling DOESN'T count, maybe the guarantee's more important anyway.

    Otherwise, when ten thugs robbing a gun store in Houston merely becomes "business as usual," of COURSE we're gonna wanna declare WWIII if some Islamist's underwear backfires.

    If 'thinking' BEFORE 'doing' ain't required, duly DO what NO thinking can underscore AFTER all.

    Guest (Chris Morris)March 4, 2016 at 8:55 am

  15. thats quite motivating, keep bettering myself as a writer daily no matter what. Although the mistakes really pinch deep whenever am proofreading my work

    Guest (Fiona)March 7, 2016 at 2:06 am

  16. Very well written article Mindy. Hope you were never asked to sing at a dear friend's wedding ... and forget the lyrics you rehearsed for weeks ... Oops. Been there. I really did that (true story).
    -Marc Wilson

    Marc WilsonMarch 12, 2016 at 4:11 pm

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)