Always Read the Fine Print

headacheDo you ever have to learn things the hard way? Unfortunately, I’ve had to do this a number of times in my fortysomething number of years. You’d think I would have learned by now. But no.

I just did it again.

Recently, a company that sends me editing projects offered me one on the “Holy Trinity.” I assumed it was a typical theological book describing the three persons of the Trinity, as recognized by Christian theology.

I admit it. I’m guilty. I saw the print print. It was smack-dab in front of my face. I should have read it. But I didn’t.

The book is about Buddhism. It’s all about absolute reality and dharma and locality and nonlocality and reincarnation. Pretty confusing stuff I know absolutely nothing about. Oh boy.

Granted, there is much one can learn by editing a book like this—and yes, one should always be learning. But that’s not the point. The point is, I thought I had one thing and ended up having something totally different. And it’s all my fault because I hadn’t read the detailed book description.

Aspiring novelists can do this too. They can read the latest Clive Cussler and think, Hey, I can do this. But they fail to read the fine print—the multitude of books and articles and blogs about how to write fiction. They fail to learn the craft, to study the technique. They think they can just start typing, chant, “Be like Clive! Be like Clive!” and that somehow—as if by magic!—they’re going to produce the next bestseller.

If only life were that easy.

Yes, I’ve seen the idealists who don’t do their homework. I’ve seen them because I’ve been one of them myself . . . at least, when it comes to my editing. I can be so sure of myself. Oh, a book on the Holy Trinity. Oh, sure. Right up my alley. I’ll knock that out in no time.

I’m so sure of myself that I don’t read the details. And everything’s in the details, isn’t it?

What about you? Have you ever thought you had pizza only to bite into it and realize to your shock that it was chocolate cake?

Photo Credit: Headache by Petr Kratochvil

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