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Learning from Mistakes

Have you ever been reading a book and noticed a mistake? Since I got my start in copyediting, I tend to notice EVERYTHING—a missing comma, a misplaced modifier, a misspelled word. Things like that “stick out like a sore thumb,” as we like to say here in the mountains.

One of my favorite quotes is “Learn from the mistakes of others; you can never live long enough to make them all yourself.” I would give you some attribution, but no one, not even Google, seems to know who said it. According to the “experts,” it could have been Groucho Marx, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Woody Allen. Wouldn’t that make a fine dinner party?

I teach the “Newbie” class at Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, designed, obviously, for new writers who are attending their first conference. My main objective with this class is to be transparent, to discuss my mistakes. You could say I’m the “King of Writer Mistakes,” so here are some highlights:

  1. I have sent out things that weren’t ready for other eyes. I arrived at my first writers conference with a printed copy of what I thought was the next red-hot bestseller. I knew someone would offer me a contract by supper on the first day of the conference, and I would return to the conference the next year as the keynote speaker, with my published book in tow. Well, that STILL hasn’t happened. I finally realized I needed more training and more information about the industry. Many, many years after that first conference, I am still learning.
  2. I have approached editors/publishers/agents without a proper pitch and plan. At my first big-time conference, I made appointments and had no idea what to do during them. I had no one-sheet and no planned pitch. I’m sure those people look back and chuckle. With many conferences under my belt now, I realize the importance of pitch and planning (Hey, that sounds like a book—don’t steal my idea!).
  3. I have chosen not to follow up on offers to send in my work. Yes, I have been one of those people, who got an invitation to send samples to an editor but didn’t follow through. I’m still kicking myself. I have allowed fear and a sense of unworthiness keep me from connecting. One particular (unnamed) person intimidated me so much I almost quit writing. I have realized editors, agents, and publishers won’t actually eat you, and rejection won’t kill you.
  4. Speaking of rejection, I have let it keep me from pursuing my goals. One year I had a promising “bite” from an editor. I submitted my work and almost immediately received a stinging rejection. I didn’t write for months after that. I have learned rejection is a part of a writer’s life, and I can’t let it get me down.

So learn from my mistakes, and keep writing and pressing on toward your goal. God’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses, and I am certainly living proof.

Written by Carlton Hughes

KCWC faculty member, Blog Administrator

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kristy Horine

    Great post, Carlton! Thanks for your transparency and your encouragement. It is so nice to know that there is survival and success on the other side of our mistakes.

    Your newbie class was the first one I took at my very first KCWC. I was ready to bolt from the room, tears rolling, because I was so scared and insecure. Your class assured me I was there for a reason and you taught me the ropes. I praise God for you, Carlton. Keep up the good work!

  2. Tracy Crump

    Your mistakes must “speak” to others, Carlton, because the newbies love your workshop. We’ve all been there, and they will be, too. See you soon!

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