Sometimes, I get notes from readers, and the notes say something like, “I loved today’s post, but I thought you might want to know, there are a few typos. Check out paragraphs three and five.”
I appreciate this. Most of the time, I’ll head over to paragraphs three and five, and fix the mistakes. But I think the folks writing would be surprised to know that everytime I get one of their emails or discover a typo in something I’ve already published, I do a little happy dance. My typos mean the world to me.
Well, to be more precise, I have two reactions: the first is a reflex, a knee-jerk response from years of training. That reaction feels something like Clench/Gasp/Shudder/PANIC. There’s an “Oh shoot!” rapid fire thought, laden with self-criticism and fear.
But just before the whole “that’s bad-embarassing-unprofessional-you should have…now people will think….” narrative kicks in, something interesting happens: reaction number two takes over.
Reaction number two is literally a little happy dance inside. It’s a feeling of “Yes!! I did it again! Put this thing out there, to thousands of people, with a verb missing in the sentence! Victory!”
What exactly am I victorious over?
Perfectionism. Fear. My own inner critic. Preparism (a cousin to perfectionism that visits me a lot – are you familiar with it?).
When I celebrate my typos, I’m celebrating a life in which I write, daily, with passion, in which I write and share with the world, write and share with the world, write and share with the world. That — without a professional copyeditor involved — is going to involve typos.
But here’s what I’m really celebrating: a changed me. A me that can look at the thing that just went to thousands of people, see the typos, and know that they don’t really matter. That they are nothing to beat myself up about or worry about. That it’s no big deal. That it’s more important that I am out there — creating, producing, sharing — in a rapid and very alive cycle.
You may not be much of a writer. Or you may have a job where typos are a big deal (lawyer, pharmacist, tattoo artist…). But no matter what your path, there is a metaphor here for you.
Where in your life are you being held hostage by your own internal editor — by a voice who’s telling you that if it’s got mistakes in it, that will be some kind of problem?
What does your soul long to do now, messily, freely — like a kid wildly finger painting at an easel — that that editor is getting in the way of?
What would constitute a victory of typo-making for you?
Let’s love our typos, because we know what they represent, and because we know the alternative. The alternative is not mistake-free creations. It’s no creations. We can create passionately, and make some mistakes along the way – or we can be so run by an inner perfectionist that we never pick up the paintbrush, or draft the business concept, or hold the party – or whatever the creative act may be.
In the end, I think the most important thing we can do in our creative lives is return to being the kid wildly finger painting at an easel. Yes, we can study technique, we can have a daily discipline that helps us develop in our craft. We can observe other artists that inspire us, and we can learn how to edit, revise, improve our own work. Yes, yes, all those things help us do good work.
But those things will kill the creative work, if they are not overshadowed by a deep commitment to be wild in and faithful to the work itself. Commitment is perhaps too deliberate a word — it is more a deep romance, a fire, a love. It’s an allowing ourselves to be pulled into.
Sometimes, a glass of wine gets spilled over in the midst of the embrace. And that is a sign of everything good.