My Fear of Mistakes, and a Grammar Book

When we are afraid of mistakes, we gloss them over, ignore them, or stop trying to accomplish what we have set out to do.

Do you fear mistakes? Most of us have that tendency. Maybe not for every activity we take part in, but the things we struggle with most can quickly become things we fear trying.

When I was a child, I hid my grammar book behind the couch and celebrated no one being able to find it. I told Mom I didn’t know where it was and shrugged as I got further and further behind. But why did I do this?

Fear of mistakes stifles learning.

I found grammar very difficult. My own eyes were at war with me and though I could understand the basics of language and the structure of English, my mistakes were constant. I didn’t understand why I struggled do much. I felt stupid. So I gave up.

Oh, how I wish eight-year-old me could have dug deep and powered through. Because of my fear, I am far behind my peers in the writing world. It took me over 25 years to overcome the fear of letting others correct my mistakes, so I could learn to be the writer I have always wanted to be. How much farther along would I be if I had not hidden that grammar book?

“Sorry Mom! I should have listened to you.”

I can’t go back and change what I did. So now I look ahead and do my best to put fear behind me, facing every spelling error and out-of-place punctuation mark with determination. I appreciate kind correction, and editors who can see the little things I can’t.

I also have learned acceptance. I have trained my brain to see many of the mistakes I would have missed ten years ago, but my eyes are still not normal. They probably won’t ever be, and that’s okay. Because I have people on my side now, people I am no longer afraid of.

©2022 Mary Grace van der Kroef


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The Dreaded Red Mark

I love the adventure of writing. I love exploring and experiencing the world or emotions I write about. But when I finish that first draft, editing must always happen.

I hate seeing those nasty confidence crippling red marks. Let me tell you, for someone who is mildly dyslexic, it’s never just one red mark. More than likely, it is a sea of them I feel I could drown in. This has been my number one challenge in completing my work.

“I have learned that taking one bite at a time and chewing it well is important.”

So how do I face those red marks?

Slowly, methodically, and with help.

I have learned that taking one bite at a time and chewing it well is important. One word, one-line, one paragraph, one page. If I get ahead of myself, I give up.

I also pace myself. Sometimes we are unaware of the energy spent while creating something, and the drain it can have on our being. I fix one word, then remind myself to blink and breathe. After tackling the next sentence, I do the breathing over again, and maybe step away from the screen to get a drink.

I am a much slower writer than most people, but that’s okay. We all create in our own way and honestly, I’m not trying to be anyone else’s competition. (Unless I am writing for a contest, that is.) I dread those red marks, but there is also nothing quite like the satisfaction of seeing them disappear from my work.

Trying is also something I do slowly. I often make mistakes while trying to fix things. Rarely is a second draft enough. More likely, a third, fourth, or even fifth draft happens before the piece is ready. The longer the project, the more drafts needed.

“So those red marks keep me humble and social.”

I rely heavily on grammar software as it’s difficult for me to see mistakes like the use if the wrong ‘to’ in a sentence. I don’t know if I could even attempt writing if it wasn’t for programs like Grammarly and ProWritingAid. But even after I reread things myself, and let the computer to its thing, I always need at least one other person to help. Software just can’t pickup all my mistakes.

So those red marks keep me humble and social. If my husband isn’t available to read through my work, I have to reach out and ask someone else. This is always awkward for me. Will they roles there eyes at my mistakes? Will they be able to see past the red to the heart of things? Can I trust them?

Oh, those little red marks teach so many things…

How do you handle the dreaded red mark?

©2021 Mary Grace van der Kroef


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