Today, I'm giving confession (even though I'm Jewish). This week, I royally screwed up an article. I didn't realize, of course, that I'd screwed it up so badly - in fact, I thought it was perfectly fine, if not better than fine, or else I wouldn't have handed it in - but when my editor pointed out where and why it wasn't fine, I realized just how in the wrong I had been.
And when I realized my error, I also wondered if it were possible to die from mortification, because I nearly felt like I might.
I've written, I dunno, hundreds of articles in the past few years. I can't remember a time, barring the second article I'd ever written for a national magazine, when I hadn't produced what I was capable of...or at least made the editor happy enough so that he or she thought it was what I was capable of. And this time, well, in retrospect, I didn't. In retrospect, I see why I didn't: I did an interview in which I was totally charmed by my interviewee, and we were having such a good chat - in the way that you do with a confidante - that I failed in my mission to conduct a really probing Q/A.
So what was I to do? I did the only thing I knew how to: I tried to rectify the situation as fast as humanly possible all the while owning up to what I did. I sent off a contrite note to my editor saying, in essence, "Look, I take responsibility for this mistake, it was my fault, and I'm busting my ass to fix it." And in the subsequent nights, I lost sleep (literally) until I found a way to resolve it.
But resolve it I did. That's all I could do. One of my biggest pet peeves in work (and in life - just ask my husband) is when you don't take ownership for your mistakes. No one is interested in excuses, even if you somehow think they cast you in a better light. Most often, they don't. So just get on with it, apply the band-aid and find a way to heal the wound.
I'm hopeful that I did. And you can be damn sure that this is a lesson well-learned. Just because you're a pro doesn't mean that you're infallible. I won't forget that again.
So tell me, anyone want to share their own screw-up story, just to make me feel a little better? :) Or if not, share what you do when you realize that you've made a professional screw-up.