Whether you’re a published or unpublished writer, aspiring or “arrived” (as if), you have probably discovered one of the foibles of the writing life: Rewrite is constant.
You can’t escape it. In fact, unless you’re a brand new writer, you probably can’t help but edit and rewrite repeatedly and reflexively during the course of a day.
You might be walking through the airport and find yourself shuddering at the “Be Relax” sign that greets you. It makes you just want to grab a permanent marker and add an –ed to the phrase everywhere it appears.
Or, as my friend Liz Curtis Higgs mentioned in a recent writers conference keynote address, you might shake your head at a “Help Wanted” sign for a “part-time adult.” (Or you might be tempted to apply, figuring you can at least fake adulthood for a few hours at a time.)
The writer’s sensibilities are almost constantly offended by misplaced apostrophes (“Professional Sign’s and Lettering,” seriously?) and the apparent inability of 99% of the English-speaking world to properly use your/you’re, they’re/their/there, and it’s/its. We proofread and mentally rewrite restaurant menus, restroom signage, and newspaper headlines, such as these:
Missippi’s literacy program shows improvement
Law would require most retailers to except cash
More adults have died from eating laundry pods than kids
Police shoot dead wanted man driving Maserati
Scientists to unleash millions of mosquitos to have sex with their cousins and kill them
If you’re anything like me, you definitely have my sympathies because you can’t even listen to some popular songs without rewriting them. Like Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said,” in which the lines, “To no one there, and no one heard at all, not even the chair” could’ve been, with just a few seconds more thought, “and nobody cared” or “my words went nowhere.” Or almost anything besides, “not even the chair”?
If any of this describes you, there may not be a cure; but at least you’re not alone. What have you mentally rewritten recently?
John Desaulniers Jr
A very good post, but I take issue with your criticism of “not even the chair.” It seems the poetic epitome of loneliness. In fact, I would love to rewrite in my own writings “nobody heard or cared” to “not even the chair.”
That said, your posts are some of my favorites from the agency. Keep up the great work.
Cannot offer a suitable response; still laughing at your examples. Nice to know I’m not alone in this malady.
When I started reading this, I thought you were talking about the compulsion to rewrite or edit our own writing. Which I have. At least signs and headlines don’t cause me personal anxiety and guilt. But when people read what I write, I feel like I should say “sorry” (like now).
Barbara Ellin Fox
Thank you , Bob. I thoroughly enjoyed the laugh this morning. I thought there was something wrong with me. Now I know I’m not alone.
Sharon K Connell
You forgot to mention all the memes posted and tweeted each day. Drives me crazy, but what can you do? Thanks for letting us know we’re not alone. I wanted to correct “Be Relax” as soon as I read it without reading the rest of the sentence or your comment about it…or…should that be you’re comment? (tee hee hee)
“Take one tablet twice a day”
How exactly? Cough it up?
These are funny and I always enjoy them, but I’ve become hesitant to gloat because it seems that as soon as I do, I make an equally stupid blooper in my own writing.
I once spelled stupid “stuped” on a spelling test.
Now that I have a blog, it’s bad. I’m developing a tendency to check and re-check posts to make sure I didn’t make the equivalent of a slip of the tongue. But even checking doesn’t always help, because we tend to “see” what we intended to write rather than what we actually wrote.
I drive my husband crazy with, “Oh my gosh! Listen to this! Look at that!” He rolls his eyes and says, “Debby. No one even notices what you see.” Glad to know I have some company. But it’s those mosquitos, Bob. The mosquitos!
I may be on my last rewrite,
though what I thought I had was true,
but after this last endless night
a bill is coming due.
The life that had been teeming
with achievement, ever year
has a different meaning
when viewing it from here.
Not a legacy to be envied,
but I’d do it all again,
with foreknowledge maybe steadied
against the tide of pain.
If this is now the final draft
I hope, on reading, that God laughed.
Thinking of you this Easter week.
Thank you so much, Jennifer. Prayers back at you, for you and yours.
Going down fast
and hard I’ll hit,
enjoying each last
moment of it.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Every time I read one of your delightful/thought-provoking/pensive/witty/funny posts I pray for you, Andrew. I pray for pain relief, peace, a growing faith in Jesus, and a daily closer walk with God while you go through this valley. Please keep posting for us and I’ll keep praying for you.
What Linda said.
Bob, thank you…you’re a blessing to the writing world, and to me.
I’m glad you’re here.
What Bob said about what Linda said about what Andrew wrote.
Shirlee, thank you!
Linda, thank you so much. It’s just such an honour to be here, to be part of this community, this place of grace in action.
Andrew, I am late to your fan club, but I’m an instant fan. Prayers for you and yours. Thank you for lifting this sister’s heart.
Holli, thank you so much! You lifted my heart, and made my day.
Andrew, what with my laptop on the fritz (new hard drive needed) and an absolutely maddening week at work, I’m just now getting to my morning read at 10 pm. I do love your sonnets, but I’m distressed at today’s content. Just know that you’re always in my prayers and have invaded my heart like a favorite son. Grace and peace be yours, now and always.
Judith, for you…
I know that this is hard to watch,
a battle being lost,
from far away, too far to touch,
but seeing all the cost.
Please know that you are in my heart,
and your strength arises there,
and know you play a vital part
by keeping me in care.
Perhaps there is not far to go
through these broken fields of stone,
but, my friend, please always know
I do not walk alone.
Upon your shoulder, strong and wide,
I lean, helped to the other side.
Bob, One of my favorites is what someone texted to a friend, “Your an idiot.” Bwahaha!
Is it Friday already? That was hilarious. If I’m alone, I tend to speak my “rewrites” out loud. I think it’s a way of warding off the contagion!
Damon J. Gray
A popular writers’ conference has the motto “Write Brave” and it makes me cringe. They passed out logo stickers with that motto, and I could not bring myself to attach one to anything.
Write Bravely – BraveLY!!
Another one that really gets under my skin is the abuse of the word “only.”
Only I fed the dog.
I only fed the dog.
I fed only the dog.
I fed the only dog.
I fed the dog only.
Which one do you mean?
Linda Riggs Mayfield
One of the local agencies that create tv commercials needs a proofreader who knows punctuation. I’ve called businesses whose ads contained errors and let them know so they can address mistakes in their ads–an easy fix, with today’s technology. The most recent offender was a commercial that contained “Clint’s Hint’s” in it. Cringe. I think I mentioned that error to someone in the store in person. A week or two after the ad was launched, the second apostrophe was gone. I will now accept thanks from all the English teachers and writers in the viewing area. Gift cards are welcome. ;-D
“More adults have died from eating laundry pods than kids”
Thanks for the laugh.
My company created behavior standards for all employees to strive to attain. The one that crawls all over me is for “Detail-Oriented.” The admonition attached to it is, “Do it perfect the first time.”
Someone missed the details.
Or what? Off with your head?
Authors are supposed to engage in social media, but some need editors to do so. I often cringe at misuse of pronouns and apostrophes in Facebook posts.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Bob, I deal with this kind of thing every day of my life. I wrote a blog posting recently on my http://www.practicalmakesperfect.com blog about graduate students who quoted the Holly Bibel and Other Wrods that Don’t Scene Quiet Write.
I loved reading about writing from the time I was a small child. So what’s happened to America’s English?
I feel your pain!
Wasn’t it Clint Eastwood who shared and empty chair?
One of my favorites, usually on a fast-food chain marquee, is “Congradulations!” Yes, the first time someone used it to honor a graduate it was cute, but when it’s used for EVERYTHING, it’s just misspelled!
My favorite source for funny misspellings is cakewrecks dot com.
I sort of hesitate to add this, but I love polka, and in the 40s and 50s one of the best bandleaders out there was featured on a dreadful advert:
“Whoopee John Wilfahrt and His Orchestra Will Play!”
Excellent post, Bob. Yep … I’m constantly rewriting everything, including my spoken words after I speak them, ha! So glad I’m not alone on this, as I’m sure there are others here who do the same thing. Such as why I love the writing community.
It must be a disease ‘rewriter’s cramp’ It makes me ill. Sometimes I die with laughter.
It keeps me conscious of my own writing (and conversation).
Good stuff, Bob. And I knew you wrote this piece since the truth of who the worst proofreader came out…
Yes. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. And rinse, repeat. That first edit (proofing, etc.) doesn’t come until one is so done, that nausea ensues simply touching that manuscript.
Hiring a professional gives a fresh set of eyes to help you … rewrite. If a publishing house does accept it, then be prepared for more rewrites/edits.
Hilarious. You just confirmed that I am a writer.
Jane A Duquette
I proofread constantly–the crawler below the TV news, the speech of news commentators, narration in books by people who should know better.
Lately I have cringed reading our choir’s Easter song’s lyrics on the big screen–“Every chain that held me captive lays in pieces on the ground.” I sing “lies” anyway, and then scold myself for being a grammar snob.
Jane, Do you find that grammar errors fall into geographic categories? In the Midwest where I grew up, it’s common to use “lay” for “lie”. For example, “He’s just laying around today.” –Not proper, of course, but common usage.
As I saw your post my first thought was, “Do I really have any more to write?” Yes, I wrote my first book and it was like having a baby and haven’t been sure I want to have another baby. O I have two or three more ideas but again not sure I want to go through the trouble and if anyone’s interested enough to read them. Maybe one day.
I feel your pain. Apparently, I am not smart enough to only agonize through one novel. Since I have 3 more completed (not yet rewritten but that’s another story).
The rotten news that my CPA gave me, had to write a check for $500 bucks for taxes which sets me back on my savings (esp since I still have to pay $400 bucks to pay taxes) for my editor. God’s in control, so the labor is taking longer than I want. But the issue is, does God want me to publish? I am asking, and I think that may well be an answer for at least six months. Pfft.
Janet Ann Collins
I can’t help laughing out loud when I see things like those you mention. And sometimes that can be embarrassing if it happens in public.
Thanks for the laugh and for helping me feel normal! I certainly find myself editing as a lifestyle, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only offended party. Since I listen to audiobooks throughout the day, I find myself rewording other author’s writing or counting how many times they use pet words (Francine Rivers likes to use the term “sardonic smile”, if anyone is curious).
Of course, it’s always easier to notice things like that in books besides my own (until it is published and can no longer be tweaked…THEN I see the details that I missed, even with an editor and proofreaders). *Sigh*. Yep! Rewriting is constant!
As a newspaper copy editor, I encounter many errors that never make it to print. One that did, though not on my watch, was the headline “Senior citizens urged to get shot” on a vaccine story. Of course, after my training, it still upsets me that the Associated Press now accepts over in place of more than. My newspaper advisor in college was strict.
I live in the education world. It absolutely drives me insane to see the misspellings and more that are posted, printed, written on dry-erase boards, even administrative memos. All I can do is laugh and pray my cynicism won’t reach any deeper into my cerebral hemorrhaging.
Thank you for the post. I’m grateful for my friend’s suggestion that I follow your listings as I launch out into the world of writing and voice over.