I designed some new bookmarks to publicise my recent books, ordered a large number and was pleased when they were promptly delivered.
Two days later (and yes, it took me all that time) I spotted a typo on them that I’d missed. To say I was furious is an understatement. I pride myself on my ability to spot an error in a manuscript at ten paces but I had totally missed this one. And not only that, despite reading and admiring them over the two days, I still hadn’t seen the mistake.
I had made some last minute changes to the wording and in a rush to get the order away in time for the various book fairs coming up, I hadn’t paused to calm down, put on my proof-reading hat and read the wording carefully. I even signed the disclaimer saying I had checked the spelling etc and was happy with everything!
Now all I can see on the bookmark is the typo. It jumps out at me whenever I look at it.
Why is it so hard to proof read your own work? Why can’t we see our own mistakes, yet can spot other people’s right away? Because we read what we think we wrote, not what our clumsy fingers actually typed. Other people’s work is new to us and we don’t have those preconceptions so we read what is actually there and thus spot the typos.
I got some friends to read over one of my books for me and what they picked up that could be improved was quite astonishing. And of course, once I’d had them pointed out to me, I couldn’t miss them.
And I’m probably not as good as I liked to think I was! I once sat a proof-reading test but failed miserably after failing to spot a huge spelling error in the second line!
So one of the morals of this sorry tale is always get someone else to read what you’ve written, no matter how short. But failing that, don’t rush, take your time, go and have a coffee and then come back to it.
However, I remembered the story I heard of how the weavers of those beautiful Persian carpets always wove a tiny mistake somewhere into them as they believed that only Allah was perfect and we mere mortals are imperfect. Googling it, I discovered that such a belief is common in a variety of religions. In North America, the Navaho Indians always weave an imperfection into a corner of a rug as that’s where the spirit moves in and out of the rug.
The Amish quilters apparently also share that belief.
“One of the first bits of wisdom imparted to a novice quilter is that the Amish, who make some of the most simple but exquisite quilts in the world, purposely plan a mistake into each of their projects because they believe attempts at human perfection mock God. Of course, any quilter knows that you don’t have to plan for imperfections in your work; they come quite naturally on their own, so I don’t know if this bit of Amish folklore rings true or not, but the idea does.”
from A Single Thread by Marie Bostwick
As a knitter and cross-stitcher, I can tell you how hard it is to create perfection and all my pieces have mistakes in them somewhere and not deliberate either.
So perhaps I should be kinder to myself and not rail about one small typo which could well pass unnoticed by most people.
No prizes for spotting it on my bookmark either!