Happy New Year!

I started 2013 by screwing up.

A big, fat mistake.

In December, I accepted an assignment from a regular client. I signed the contract and started working on the article, contacting sources for interviews and finding supplemental research. When I emailed the article (two days ahead of the deadline), I was pretty proud of it. The problem: I didn’t read the assignment email carefully.

In essence, I wrote a fabulous article about widget-makers when the editor wanted a fabulous article about widget-makers who specialize in making blue plastic widgets for factories in Zimbabwe. The editor pointed out the error. I apologized and promised to have the correct article on her desk within 72 hours. Her response, “No worries. I appreciate the quick remedy.”

I felt terrible. After five minutes of repeating the phrase, “I cannot believe I did that!” I picked up the phone and started calling widget-makers who specialize in making blue plastic widgets for factories in Zimbabwe.

Here’s the thing: We all make mistakes. The most successful writers embrace those mistakes (easing the pain with a chocolate chip cookie or two) and move on. There is no sense dwelling on what went wrong, except to remember not to make the same mistake again.

Think of all of the ways dwelling on the negative keeps you stuck.

I’ve worked with writers who:

  • Decided it was impossible to break into national magazines because their first three queries to major glossies were rejected.
  • Stopped pitching one of their target markets because they were too embarrassed to approach the editor after sending a query with the name of a major industry tycoon spelled incorrectly.
  • Read an article about “content mills” and decided that all freelance rates were super low so it wasn’t worth it to pursue a writing career.

In all of those cases, the writers DECIDED TO STAY STUCK. To make a living as a writer, you have to keep moving forward. The incident with the widget editor was not the first time I messed up (I don’t make a habit of it, of course, but after a decade of writing, mistakes happen). If the first error had sent me crawling back under the covers, I would be setting the alarm for 6:30 a.m., forcing my way into a pair of pantyhose and spending a soul-sucking eight hours in a cubicle doing a job that didn’t inspire me. Who wants that?