The Bookish Fox

On Typos and Toothpaste

When I was in college, I applied for the Marshall Fellowship (this relates to writing, I promise). I wanted to study the depictions of Diana, the goddess of the moon, in Scottish literature, so of course I had to go to Edinburgh (the fact that it was the birthplace of Harry Potter was definitely a side benefit). I did all the steps to make it happen: wrote the essays, made a contact at the University of Edinburgh, and got several references.


There was one step that was the scariest: get interviewed by a panel of big deal people in the University, including the vice president. You see, to apply for the fellowship, I had to get the endorsement of the president of our college (in this case, the panel would give the president a report).


I did all the things: I straightened my curly hair, agonized over my outfit, practiced in front of the mirror (much to the amusement of my roommate), and brushed my teeth a billion times to avoid food in my teeth and bad breath.


I went to the interview, and it wasn’t bad at all. The panel was kind and laughed at my jokes. I knew I nailed it.


When I got home and gave myself a thumbs-up in the mirror (I never claimed to be cool), I noticed a giant splash of toothpaste on my carefully ironed button-down.


I immediately called my friend to bemoan my “failure.” You know what she did? She laughed and said, “Good for you. It keeps you humble.”


I laughed, and it was all okay. I did get the reference from the president, but I didn’t get the fellowship (apparently the world did not need to know about the various depictions of Diana in Scottish literature). And, guess what? My life was still great.


How does this relate to writing? Showing that nobody is a perfect writer. Not even editors. I make typos (yes, even in these newsletters) and sometimes have plot holes that are so big that a dinosaur could stroll through my first drafts.


That’s why I hire editors for my own writing. Because nobody can see his or her own writing objectively. It’s because you are too in it. Before my interview, I was too busy admiring my hair and my new shoes to see the toothpaste stain on my shirt. When you are writing, you are too busy dreaming up characters or conveying your message to your readers to see that you used the wrong “there.” And that’s okay.


But you still need to hire people who will fix it. Preferably those who will do it with love and non-judgment, which is definitely us. Our writing isn’t perfect, and we don’t expect yours to be either. As a result, our feedback is always given from a place of love (and humor). As our girl Mary Poppins once said, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down.” While we might not send you candy with your edits, we will probably throw in a YouTube video or two. Because we all need someone to make us laugh over the stains on our clothing (or in our writing).


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