Hello, my name is Laura Schoenfelder, and I am guilty of not proofreading my work. Whether essays or creative writing, for pleasure or business, I rarely give anything I write a second read. Ever since middle school, I’ve been procrastinating. Back then it was book reports. A couple nights before one was due, I would type it up and fix any misspelled words indicated by a red underline, and then I’d call it a night. Sure, I could have spent five minutes reading over it to make sure I caught any errors the computer did not, but I didn’t.
You might be asking, “Why Laura? Why would you do this to yourself?” Well, my friends, I am afraid. Very Afraid. “Of what?” you might ask.
When it comes to my writing, I’m a little full of myself. I think I’m a better writer than I actually am. I know that if I read my work over again, it will shatter my confidence, because it won’t be as good as I hoped.
You know when you have something you want to say, but aren’t quite sure how to phrase it? You can spend hours trying to find the right words and still come up short. I hate that. When I write a first draft, I never go back to figure out how to say something better. I’m a lazy perfectionist, so by not proofreading, I tell myself that what I wrote is already as perfect as it can get.
Sometimes I just know from the moment I start writing that my piece won’t be successful. Reading it over again will only confirm that fact.
I also know well-written work requires research. If you don’t know jack about a subject and just make it up, someone’s going to call you out on it—rightfully so. I choose to write about what I already know—rather than learn something new—to limit my sense of failure, but it only limits my writing.
I’m not only afraid my work won’t hold up, but that I’ll hate it. I hate what I write all the time. I know it’s not good enough. That’s the ultimate reason I won’t re-read anything. Because I know I’ll want to give up and stop writing forever. To me, it’s better to write something and never look at it again than to write something and hate it so much I never wanted to write again.
So, what do I do about these fears? After careful consideration, I’ve come to a solution. I need to get over myself. I let fear take over my writing. Clearly, I can make the time to edit, and laziness isn’t an excuse for poor writing. And perfection doesn’t have to be the end game if I improve each draft.
I even googled some inspirational writing quotes and I liked this one by Paul Valery: “A poem’s never finished, only abandoned.” I think this can apply to any and all writing. So, you can quote me if you’d prefer: Any and all writing is never finished, only abandoned.
In all seriousness, perfection is unachievable. Nobody has ever finished something they’ve written, held it up, kissed it, and said, “Finally, this is perfect!” If you’ve done this, you are wrong. You can say, “You know what, I like what I’ve written, and I’m proud of it. Now it’s time to see if anyone else likes it.” Then you move on and start on your next piece of writing.
Editor’s Note: Have a piece that you’re proud of and ready to submit? We’d love to read it, and we’re still accepting poetry and prose (fiction and nonfiction) for our spring issue of Blue Mesa Review through February 28! We also offer an expedited service for reading poetry, fiction, and nonfiction submissions. Check out our Submittable page for more details.