Inspiration

Why I Love My Typos

By June 29, 2011 19 Comments

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.

Love,

Tara

Join the discussion 19 Comments

  • Kim says:

    Thanks for this, Tara. As one who is sometimes horrified by typos, mine as well as others, I needed to hear it.

    I had my first guest post published over the weekend and was upset when I read it at the site and discovered a couple of typos.

    But the feedback was overall very positive, I got lots of visitors to my website and new twitter followers, and not one person mentioned the typos.

    Lesson learned.

  • Brenda says:

    Tara – what a beautiful post. As a recovering perfectionist, I have to struggle each day with this issue. Of clicking “Publish”, regardless.

  • Gwyn Michael says:

    YAY for typos! Being newish to writing publicly and not a professional writer my style is “get the words out and hit publish before you overthink it!”

    Inevitably there are typos.

    I make the oops grimace and go fix, but I am always glad I got it out there regardless of imperfection.

  • Marion says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I am horrible at typos, never see them, never catch them. I do know, though, when and how they occur. It’s usually when I am in that great, happy place of writing when it’s just flowing, the words and ideas are connecting and it’s like sparks. At that point, who cares if the comma is missing or their are too many spaces!

    I am celebrating the typos as a celebration of creativity!

    Thank you so much for this inspiration!

  • Leslie says:

    As a recovering perfectionist, I can totally relate to every word of this post. Thank you for sharing, I love your blog, and you are definitely an inspiration for me.

    Shine Brightly,
    Leslie
    Sparklingyogini.wordpress.com

  • Catherine says:

    Thank you for this lovely perspective on the mistakes we all make. As someone who is writing a dissertation which I am utterly, absolutely, completely terrified to submit because there WILL be mistakes in it, it’s lovely to hear about another way to think about them…

  • Perfection is the enemy of the good. . There’s at least one in every crowd who looks at a whole body of work and picks out the mistake. To look at it generously, I think some people feel they’re not responding seriously if they don’t find something wrong. “This is wonderful” doesn’t seem like enough. I don’t think the perfectionist recognizes the effort involved in the whole picture. So, here’s to you, Tara, this is a great post and thanks for the encouragement.

  • Lisa Ahn says:

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m bookmarking it, to come back when I need the reminder. I don’t spend enough time at the messy easel; I’m too preoccupied with that inner perfectionist.
    “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.” — I love this line. Thanks 🙂

  • […] Why I Love My Typos @Tara Sophia Mohr […]

  • Ally Bean says:

    I just found your blog and this post resonates with me. I always quadruple-check anything that I write before I send it or mail it. Slows me down to a crawl some days.

    But now thinking about what you said, perhaps I can move forward a bit faster and forgive myself for the little mistakes that I make.

    Thanks for such a fresh pov for those of us who are typo-phobic.

  • Jocko James says:

    This is a fine article. I am a acoustic blues guitar player. Who on occasion makes a mistake while playing. It used to bother me a great deal until I watched some of the old time guitar players. It didn’t seem to bother them any when they did it. Your article reinforces my conclusion.

    I am not a machine, a small mistake that lets a little humanity through is not a big deal. Might even help!

    Thanks

  • Steve says:

    We should celebrate getting things wrong? No thanks, I like my inner perfectionist and I’ll stick to getting things right first time rather than look amateurish.

  • Country Wife says:

    Great post! I feel just the same way. First a cringe, then a humbling reminder that I am so far from perfect.

  • Dawn says:

    Relief washed over me when I read this. Let the typos go! why didn’t I think of that?! I have, of course, and you just reminded me. Thank you for that!

    Thanks for pointing out that the price of trying to create perfection may be creating nothing.

    Perfcet typing is WAYYYY overrated!

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