Making a mistake

This morning I posted an old story to the Solid Gold Box, fully realizing that it was not quite right. I still think it was a good story. It was neither the first time, nor the last time, that I got something wrong in a published piece.

The mistake that sticks most often in my mind was a front-page story from the 1997 collapse of Repap BC. For our newspaper, accurate information about the local mill was always hard to come by—the place was known as the “Rumour Mill.” Paul Anderson wrote a careful and accurate story about the restructuring of the company. I ran it above the fold, and not only increased point size on the headline but added colour. When the paper was delivered from the printer I was faced with the very prominent headline, “REPAP BC RESTUCTURES.”

One that haunts me still is on one of the text panels in the Museum of Northern BC. I was buried in historical sources, and in one place used the outdated spelling “Klondyke” for “Klondike.” It was a conscious decision, which struck me as wrong the minute I saw the produced panel. Another time I was stuck for the spelling of geoduck, and typed the pronunciation “gooey duck” as a place-holder that somehow made its way to print. (Worse, I believe that it appeared in the phrase “gooey duck divers…” Eww.)

Given time, I could likely dream up a book’s-worth of similar stories. The mad race of newspaper production is particularly conducive to errors.

Do these things bug me? You’re darn right they do. More than you might imagine. But writers have to live with mistakes, and lingering fears of imperfection. If the fear becomes too great, you will never hit “send,” and you will never publish.

Unless you want to give up, or tell your stories in a Salinger-like vacuum without validation, mistakes are inevitable. Rethink that rationale one more time. Proof the galleys ten times instead of just nine. And when the inevitable occurs, consider each mistake a lesson learned. In your eyes it will stand out like a neon sign, but for the reader, if they notice at all, a good story will easily rise above that.

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Bruce Wishart
Whimsies. Sometimes about writing.
Sometimes about folklore. Sometimes
about the sea, or life on the coast.
And sometimes not.