In 2000 I published a memoir writing course. It has been revised four times and edited by three trained editors: two at University level. I have put countless hours of work into perfecting it, but guess what? If you read through, you will still find very small typos hidden in it like Easter Eggs. That drives me to screaming point!
It’s not just me. Since I’ve switched to e-books, I am finding frequent mistakes in books from best selling authors, distributed through traditional publishing houses. One mistake was of an unrelated sexual nature and the spell checker, or editor, should have easily picked it up. It looks like the editing monsters are tormenting more souls than mine!
So why does this happen? Let me tell you the secret. When I researched “Unleashing Your Creative Spirit,” I delved into theories on memory and how it functions. Your brain is the busiest organ in your body. It runs your internal organs, all your movements, your memory, computes stimuli from your five senses, logs time, drives your subconscious thinking processes and deals with what you are doing now: reading. At the same time, it makes sure you aren’t hot / cold / hungry / thirsty / tired / in pain, or about to be run over by a bus! It has to compute what is around you, plus predict what to expect next.
That is a massive workload to achieve all at once! So the brain, being smart, has brilliant means of conserving energy. It’s actually very eco-friendly, but that’s sometimes to a writer’s detriment.
Have you ever been to a friend’s place and said, “You’ve repainted,” just to have them look at you strangely and tell you they did if five years ago? Of course, it will be the home of that friend you visit fairly frequently. It’s a common faux pas. We all go to familiar places and say, “I never noticed that before.” It happens because in order to save the energy it takes to log all the details, your brain does a quick scan and just takes in what is the most important. For what it considers to be familiar or non-essential details, it relies on memory, or blocks stimuli out.
How does this work with editing? When you have read the same paragraph ten times, it becomes too familiar. The brain automatically decides that you don’t need to re-log all that, so mistakes go unnoticed. You’ve seen those emails where you can still read sentences, even though the letters in the middle of the words are mixed up? They work because a familiar pattern is identified and you auto-fill the rest.
So, how do we overcome this? Make your work look new! When I started blogging, I discovered that I would pick up mistakes in WordPress’ preview mode that I couldn’t see in the writing window. In preview, the font size differed and words were in different spots on the page. If you’re working in a word processor, you can try for the same effect by changing fonts, changing margin widths, altering text color, or opening the document in a totally different word processor.
The other lifesaver I use is to put my work aside, wait 48 hours then edit again. That gives my brain a chance to re-set.
So don’t beat yourself up over the occasional small typo. We all make them. Do everything you can to prevent the slip-ups from happening and remember: it’s all because you’re just too efficient!
News just to hand: starting March 1st there is a free initiative running named “National Novel Editing Month.” Your goal is 50 hours in March. Join here: http://www.test.nanoedmo.net/
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