It’s called Karma. For me, it usually comes about a day after my cockiness factor has gone through the roof, my editorial hubris running amok. Every time I start getting the big ego, the over-inflated sense of self-importance, that feeling I can do no wrong, Karma comes in to give me a nice reboot. Then I am nice again. For a while.
A few weeks or months go by, and the idiotic practices I see in our beloved writing industry start irritating me. I begin complaining about stupid queries, brain-dead replies to job offers, idiotic and clueless dorks polluting an industry I depend on to pay my bills. Once I get to the top of fever, I start pushing near-rabid diatribes about the worst parts of being a freelancer.
Then, it happens.
I wind up doing something so heinously stupid that I can hardly stand to call myself a freelancer. I eat a large dose of crow washed down with a pint of humility. I think this happens a lot in our business, as my writing partner and fellow FZ editor Catherine Tully has also experienced this sort of phenomena. Once in the early days of our career she had just finished giving me a lecture about proofreading copy before firing it off in a query when she sent off one of her own which read “Dear Blank”.
We had a good laugh about that one, I can tell you. Never drink and query.
I’ve decided to start calling these foul-ups “Dunder-Mifflins” in honor of that painful-to-watch and quite funny show, The Office. My most recent Dunder-Mifflin involved firing off a query to an editor which was quite well received, but a day late and a dollar short. Somebody had beaten me to the punch on a great idea, and I while I felt like a doink for not catching that it had already been covered (6 months prior, so I have SOME excuse, at least in my own mind) I knew the idea was ripe for some OTHER magazine.
I had written a damn fine query, so I cut and pasted the details into a new e-mail and fired it off to another publication. Only problem was, I forgot to remove a bit of personal correspondence which specifically referenced a different article in the publication.
This is a screw-up of the highest order, a rank amateur type of mistake for which I should be repeatedly beaten.
It’s the sort of thing that happens to ALL of us, but that is no consolation. I rail against unprofessional behavior and stupid errors quite publicly, but when I turn my back on myself for five seconds, I am off making the same bonehead plays as everybody else. Feet of clay? Hell, the whole damn thing is made out of clay, thanks very much. Except for my brain, which is clearly a mass of solid bone.
That’s why it always pays to check and double check before you hit send. It also helps to remind yourself that it WILL happen to you. So far I haven’t gotten a reject from the other mag, but I suspect I’ll be caught out as the hasty e-mailer that I was at that moment. With a little luck I might get the gig anyway, but if I do it will be purely in spite of myself.
What a doink. I should apply to be editor of the Dunder Mifflin corporate newsletter. Now there’s a place I might actually be able to fit into. With my brains and skill, I could become secret assistant to the manager in two years.