Mistakes and What They Teach Us

I’ve often wondered why actors aren’t expected to study bad movies more often. Isn’t it true that we learn from our mistakes just as much as we learn from what others have done well?

Over on Kristen King’s blog, guest author Steve Wagenheim gives tips for copywriting in 2008, one of which stood out more than the others – “… learn from your 2007 mistakes.” Amen.

See, I’m all for reevaluating and revamping as needed. Yet rarely do I hear any writer proclaim on weblog or otherwise that he or she is looking backward in order to move forward. No, we get a ton of resolutions right now, but nowhere do we hear anyone really study their performance and their income versus that performance.

Well, we should. We have at our disposal all the information we need to improve our careers. We have evidence of what’s worked, what hasn’t, and where we as writers failed to follow through. We need only to look back and see it all. For instance, did we send out brochures to no avail? Why didn’t it work? Did we follow through with those same targeted clients or did we just let that initial contact die? And those jobs we took – did we spin our wheels writing articles for too little cash and too many requirements? What did we pass up that we should’ve taken? What did we leave out of those contracts that need to become part of future ones? Did we work on those books we’ve been threatening to write, or did we wait for someone to magically discover that we’re writing them and offer oodles of money? Did we let fear of rejection stop us from even starting?

What’s the single most important lesson you’ve learned from your 2007 mistakes?

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  • Lori January 10, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I see we all are busy looking back… ;))

    Come on – one thing?

    I’ll start. I’m the Queen of Lack of Followup. I will make initial contact, send an email to them, send another brochure, but picking up that phone is like being pushed over a cliff.

  • devonellington January 10, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    I learned to trust my gut and not take on jobs I know instinctively will be bad for me.

    Of course, I had to learn it the hard way.

  • Lori January 10, 2008 at 4:44 pm

    That’s a good one, Devon. We all have to learn that one, sadly.

  • The Word Wrangler January 11, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    I learned a few things. The major thing I learned is to not be my worst enemy. My stupid negative thinking has put the kibosh on too many wonderful opportunities. I only hope this cat has a few lives left.

  • The Quoibler January 11, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Mistakes? Me? Perish the thought! (yeah, right!)

    My biggest writing-related error of 2007 was in underestimating just how much of a virus incubator my son can be.

    Last year, I suffered through so many freakin’ ailments I think I was sick about half the year with one bug or another… literally six months (at least.)

    For an at-home freelancer, it was tough on many levels. This year, I’m building more lead time into my due date spreadsheet so I don’t have to play The Last Minute Scramble. (It’s like Twister without any of the fun…)


    P.S. Glad my Tibetan monk hip-hop song titles gave you a couple chuckles! -AHC

  • michele tune January 12, 2008 at 2:21 am

    I actually posted few of mine here:

    Wisdom Gained from 2007 Failures.