Embrace Your Errors

MUD day 5:

When I embarked on this month of daily, rapidly written blog posts, I knew my tolerance for typos and other errors would be sorely tested. And indeed, yesterday I committed one of the homophonically confused errors I’ve made since the beginning of my publishing career, writing “died-in-the-wool” rather than “dyed.”  Once I might have been upset by the discovery of my mistake, but my recent reading has persuaded me that a few errors now and then, once recognized, can be good for both readers and writers.

In this morning’s Los Angeles Times, the editors published a note under the headline “Didn’t anyone edit this?” As the paper’s “reader representative” Dierdre Edgar wrote, “When readers write in about errors, it shows they care, and that’s a good thing.” While there are other ways of getting readers to interact with you, the occasional mistake can be good for a writer’s engagement with readers.

But there’s a better reason for writers not to feel too bad when realized they’ve goofed: It’s a valuable learning experience. I’ll leave the last word on this to Kathryn Schulz, a writer I discovered only yesterday through a wonderfully written New York Times review of Haruki Marukami’s new novel 1Q84.  In her book, On Being Wrong, Schulz eloquently explains why the occasional error is not only tolerable, but beneficial:

Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage. And far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change.

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