Why on earth would learning to suck at some things be a good idea? Why would we feature it on a website about living an amazing life? Two very good questions. We will tackle them both in the brief paragraphs that follow.
In the picture above you see my current work area at a local Starbucks. The folder of paperwork you see to the right of my computer is my upcoming book. I had received it back from my esteemed editor Johnny L, who brought back with him from Mexico where he lives. On this draft he made several corrections in red. Most of them are grammar and syntax issues. I purposely shot this picture from far away so you can’t readily see how much red is on the paper.
When I wrote my first book, A Happy Life for Busy People, it came back with more red than black. I am happy to announce that the copy for this book did not receive the same treatment. My accomplishment is not my improvement in writing, however slight. The improvement I am most proud of is my receptivity to the corrections. Being an author is almost like giving birth to a child. I am sure many art forms are similar. I recall bringing songs to bands I was in, the feeling was the same. You worked quite hard to give birth to this special project. (The gestation period for my last book was five years) It is really a part of you. Then here comes your editor, fellow bandmates, art critics, jealous haters or a million other people telling you what you did wrong.
Those of you who are parents, imagine how it feels to hear there is something wrong with the child you created. How do you feel? Judged? Defensive? Angry? These are all natural and understandable feelings. The hard truth in all of this is that there is not only at least a little truth in the criticisms, but an opportunity to learn and grow. In trying to correct the errors in my first book after several days of looking at spelling and grammar errors I was tempted to say “F%$k it! Maybe I shouldn’t be an author if I have this many errors.”
In reflection, that was both an immature and limiting reaction. Although I can understand why I, and anyone else in a similar situation, can feel that way, it really does not serve us. First of all, by looking at ways in which what we created can be improved will undoubtedly bring a more quality product to life with our name attached to it. Secondly, the feelings of being judged, anger or defensive do not serve us emotionally and can even damage us physically. What is amazing about that? Nothing.
I have learned to understand every round of editing, every criticism only helps me become stronger and deliver a better version of me and my products to the world. I have now been a writer for nearly 10 years in some form or fashion. This is only professionally and does not take into consideration the stories my third grade teacher thought were amazing and kept for herself. This experience could leave me an entitled or aloof attitude when it comes to criticism. Instead, the more I grow as both a writer and a person in general I enjoy hearing ways I can improve. On occasion this may take some time, just ask Margie, but eventually I have learned to make every situation in life one to grow from.
When your life seems to have more red than black, be that literal or figurative, just remember it is a change to improve what you do and come back stronger. Yes, it may sting at first, but use that feeling to your advantage. A special shout out to Johnny L for having the patience to realize my fingers often move faster than my brain and to Margie who works with me as I learn and grow through life.