Here is an original page from “Alaric, Child of the Goths.” Looks messy, doesn’t it?
Don’t worry—none of this mess is still in the book!
The typed section doesn’t look too bad—a few asterisks, an all cap question, and an underlined number.
But look at the rest. It looks like I failed the assignment because of all the mistakes.
Or did I?
Is your assignment to write a perfect rough draft?
1. If you are taking a placement exam, yes.
2. If you are writing a novel, journal, or anything for fun, no.
Are all those comments actually mistakes?
Let’s change the perspective. When you receive the page filled with marks—made either by you or by your editor—avoid thinking about them as mistakes. Instead, think of what you did as practice. Few people if any are able to write a rough draft worthy of a final. And generally these people are poor writers whose problem is the inability to do more than the rough draft.
Without writing the “flawed” rough draft, the final would not happen. As I look through this page, I do not see mistakes so much (this page had mostly the right words and grammar in my opinion) as unfinished ideas. I filled most of the available page with what I thought needed to be added, either to clarify an unclear sentence or to give a character the right name. (The character Athwaulf used to be named Paulus.)
If we take this analogy to the marks an editor or teacher gives, think of them as advice to help your practice. Unless you were lazy and did not correct basic mistakes like spelling and verb form, an editor’s marks are ideas for you to consider and implement, not criticisms of your mistakes.
I hope you find this change in perspective freeing. Now, go make mistakes… with the goal of improving what you do.