As you know I write every day no matter what else is going on in my life. It brings me lots of joy.
That said, I’m always mortified whenever I make a mistake.
In Monday’s post I spelled the word muslin wrong. First I wrote Muslim as in the Muslim Brotherhood and my friend Bill asked me if I was indeed wearing a Muslim’s bathrobe. Working nearby, I neurotically came home to change it only to spell it wrong again; it’s muslin not muslim which he brought to my attention today.
Please don’t get the wrong idea, I ask him to edit. The last thing I want to do is come off as a moron which is exactly the issue I want to address.
My fear of appearing stupid is vast not to mention ridiculous so here comes the million dollar question – Why is perfection such a goal of mine and a painful one at that?
For starters, I didn’t go to school opting to model instead and believe me when I say, if I could do it all over again I would have made skid marks to college. I tell this to disappointed 16 year old girls with invariably too much eyeliner who can’t fathom why I urge them to study rather than chase a modeling career.
It’s not that I don’t get the draw, after all I lived and breathed everything connected to fashion at their age. The walls of my room were so plastered with pictures of Lauren Hutton and Jean Shrimpton you couldn’t tell what color they were painted.
Unfortunately I did not have aggressive parents when it came to making important decisions. My mother, who was rather busy with her cocktail hour if you get my drift, really didn’t mind my glamorous aspirations since she too had them when she was a girl and liked living vicariously through her daughter…the fashion plate who could barely conjugate.
My father, a great guy, didn’t have the ‘You’re going to school young lady and that’s that’ gene either. I do remember him gently knocking on my bedroom door to tell me if I wanted to pursue my writing because I loved it even back then, he would be more than happy to fund my education. He liked that I wrote. In fact when he died there was a poem I had written when I was 10 carefully folded in his wallet that really broke my heart. Knowing your father was proud of you after the fact is a tough one, let me tell you.
So despite my years of galloping around the globe I still feel inferior, so much so, that when I make an error I take it to heart.
First of all, so what if I spelled a word wrong, what’s the big deal? This is the tough voice in me that tries to drown out the panicked, pitiful one.
I remember reading the letters exchanged between Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Spelling didn’t exist for either one of them. It was actually funny the mutual mistakes they made and they’re considered 2 of the greatest writers in history.
Does that make me feel better?
Not really but I do like knowing that bad spelling doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad writer.
My other issue is grammar since I write by ear. Many times Bill or my other friend Ed will gently challenge a line to say that it’s not grammatically correct and my answer is always the same, “Yeah, but it sounds right.”
Coincidentally Ed was the one who told me Winston Churchill also wrote by ear.
Many esteemed writers didn’t go to college. Woody Allen for instance started penning jokes in his late teens earning a living ever since. Not that I’m comparing myself to him but it does make me feel less inferior knowing that someone I admire isn’t formally educated.
I do think of myself as more of an organic writer anyway. I never know what will appear on the page always as surprised as you are at what it will be.
I had no intention of penning this today until I got the ‘Muslin’ email that inspired such a siege of self-berating that it wrecked my walk in the park.
How silly am I?
I’m not such a great speller, neither was Ernest or Scott. Mr. Churchill also wrote by ear and just to remind myself, I am extremely self-taught that may not include a dusty diploma to shove down people’s throats but it is something to be proud of. It’s also quite alright to be a chronic work in progress.
Muslin – noun – lightweight cotton cloth in a plain weave.
Muslim – noun – a follower of the religion Islam.
The Imperfect Susannah B.