My Deliberate Mistake

One of the more challenging things about being a writer is that once you publish something, you can’t go back and correct it. So if you’re anything like me, you tend to stress over details, especially when you’re in the final stages of a manuscript. I start to question everything. Did I convey the setting accurately? Are my timelines right? What mistakes have I made in this book?

It’s a bit of a mind trap. There you are, with 70,000 plus words in front of you and you’re accountable for every single one of them. Talk about micro managing. So getting stressed out is natural. After all, no one (writer or otherwise) wants to be remembered for what they screwed up. The problem, however, is that you begin to focus not on what you’ve done right, but on what you may have done wrong. You take stock of your potential mistakes and not your achievements. And this can prevent you from appreciating what you’ve created. Which is a freaking novel. Or a short story. Or a poem. Or whatever it is you’ve written.

I once heard that Persian rug makers leave a deliberate mistake in their rugs, the reason being that we, as humans, are imperfect by nature. When I was in the final edits of my last novel, Natural Order, I did the same. I left a deliberate mistake in the text. And while the mistake wasn’t an obvious one – I hope not, anyway – knowing it was there took a burden off my shoulders. My deliberate mistake made my other mistakes, the unintentional ones, forgivable. And while it’s important that writers try very, very hard to get things right, it’s more important to remember that we’re humans first and writers second.

If you’re in the final stages of your writing and stressing over perfection, go ahead and insert your deliberate mistake. Not only will it free you up, it will also give you permission to stand back and appreciate the tapestry you’ve created.