I have this little quirk that drives me crazy. If I’ve done something wrong, be it an outright sin or an innocent mistake, I feel huge amounts of shame no matter what it is I’ve done. Like a couple of months ago, carrying around a cloak of guilt I couldn’t get rid of. It made me sick to my stomach. I hate the thought of possibly being discussed behind my back, of being warned against, of letting people down, of tarnishing whatever reputation I may have built up, et cetera.
So what I am coming to realize about myself is that the one thing that always, always removes my shame is when I tell on myself. When I can no longer be found out, voila, the feelings of guilt evaporate almost instantly.
So, to free myself, and to possibly help you from avoiding the same mistakes, here goes.
Within the course of a couple months and within the same large publication, I made the following (super-basic, writer-101, I-should-have-known-better, totally-embarrassing, I’d-give-anything-to-undo) errors:
1. I emailed an editor at her personal address. Why I did this: I couldn’t find her work email in my contacts list and she and I are friends on Facebook, so I grabbed it from there. At the time, it didn’t even cross my mind as a no-no. Lesson learned: do not email a professional contact at her personal address UNLESS she has said you could or you are replying to an email that she sent you from that address.
2. I emailed an editor with a few article submissions without querying first. Why I did this: she and I had been discussing another article and I jumped ahead in our relationship thinking we were beyond the query phase. We weren’t. Lesson learned: always query UNLESS you have been told you no longer have to.
3. I sent out simultaneous submissions and then in my disorganization agreed to have one article posted on three websites all about the same time, with one of them even being contracted for first/only rights. Why I did this: I had just listened to some CDs from a writers’ conference and I got all fired up about sending out articles to magazines and websites, so I spent a morning going through what I had to send out and choosing where to send them. Then I sent them all out and didn’t think about them again. When a random email would come in from someone saying they were interested, I just said yes out of excitement. (I am typically super-organized, so this particular mistake was really unlike me.) It wasn’t until after the article had been posted on all three sites that it was pointed out to me and the consequences came. Lesson learned: keep track of what you send out. I now have a spreadsheet in Excel where I record the date, article title, publication, my contact, accepted/rejected status, amount paid. This will keep me from making this same mistake again.
I have no idea if you’re reading this with your jaw on the floor because you cannot believe I just did those three absolutely horrific things all at once or if you’re chuckling thinking I’m too hard on myself. Either way, just getting this all out is lifting a huge weight off my shoulders, and just maybe, it’ll keep you, dear writer friend, from doing the same thing.