I used to work in government. For reals. When you work in a bureaucracy (God help you), you frequently hear about the concept of the “Peter Principle.” I’d hate to be the poor guy after which it was named, but the basic idea is that if you work somewhere that rewards good work with promotions, eventually you’ll be promoted beyond your own abilities. You sure won’t get promoted again, but you’ll definitely stay right there, doing a poor job until you sheepishly retreat into retirement.
Yay for self-employment, right? But while being one’s own boss might eliminate the chance of being promoted to a position one is unable to fulfill, it doesn’t save us writers, musicians or designers from taking work for which we’re unsuited. I, for example, am frequently asked about doing editing, marketing work or even administrative-type things in the publishing world. The idea is that being a writer is on one rung of the ladder, and those things are up a step or two.
Here’s the thing though: I haaaaaaaaaaaate copyediting. While I can and will take the time to look-up some dumb rule about whether MLA or AP Style or CMOS wants this word to be hyphenated or a comma to be used here, I just don’t caaaaaaaaaare. It’s just so booooooooring. And if I accepted too many of those jobs and found myself primarily doing administrative or copyediting work, I would be a sad, sad self-employed person, doing a poor job at it until I sheepishly retreat into, oh wait, I’ll probably never retire. Until I sheepishly die, I guess.
Can you tell I just finished copyediting my own book for the 3,028th time? And can you believe that after the 3,027th another one was necessary? Sigh. It was the worst. And while I refuse to do a 3,029th pass, I’m so paranoid there is going to be a damn typo in that book. There really could be. Because I am a poor copyeditor.
But alas, these are the things that remind us where we do not excel, and that doesn’t make us bad people or any less talented in other areas. In fact, it allows us to focus on that at which we do excel. Then, like magic, it turns out, all the growth you need happens right within that space, and you can get even better at the thing you started out being best at in the first place.
P.S. If you find a typo in my book, don’t even. I mean, I can’t even. Just shhh about it.