The Wacky Races

When Riddance came out in 2012 people said some very nice and kind things about it. But that is not what I remember.

The thing I remember is this. A very lovely man who has, for want of a better phrase, ‘followed my career’ (not that I believe poets have them), including seeing me read in the early days when I did not know what I was doing (do I now?) and being the one of the few people who is not a member of my family to actually buy my first book, emailed me.

It contained everything you would want from an email in that nervy-excited phase of just-having-published when even leaving the house feels like an act of extreme self-exposure. It was generous. It showed empathy about the experience of cancer the book describes. It said how much he liked the book and how he was sure it would be helpful to others.

And then he said: ‘But the Whacky Races? I’ve not seen that before. It’s Wacky. Wacky Races. No ‘h’’. And that is what I remember about What People Said About Riddance. Not the kind words, not the empathy, not the juicy quotes. I remember that I spelled Wacky Races wrong. (The poem is a good one. I should read it more often.)

Similarly, all I remember about my first book is that I misspelled ‘Buddha’. A former teacher wrote in to tell me. 4/10, Wilson. See me. It never goes away.

So that is why, as I send out the very last final final final versions of my proofs, I am extra-nervous. That somewhere there lurks an un-googled spelling mistake or misplaced capital or letter ‘h’, and, worse, that someone will find it, and tell me. It won’t be for lack of trying, or concentration. Nevertheless, the fear will not go away. When people ask me what is it like being a writer, I tell them: this.


  1. May I offer the following quote-

    “My deepest fear is not that I am inadequate. My deepest fear is that I am powerful beyond measure.

    It is my light, not my darkness, that most frightens me.

    I ask myself, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who am I not to be?

    I am a child of God.

    My playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around me.

    I am born to manifest God’s glory within me. It’s not just in some of us: it’s in everyone. And, as I let my own light shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As I am liberated from my own fear my presence automatically liberates others.”

    –Marianne Williamson, “A Return to Love, Reflections on the Principles in ‘A Course in Miracles’”

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I can completely relate to this and your last post, having recently sent back my latest book manuscript with an ‘ok go’… fingers crossed x

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you Anthony, you’ve given me an answer. Some poet friends and I recently published a small pamphlet. We each edited our own poems and didn’t see others’. Once it was published (when it was too late), I read all the poems and found several errors – spelling, punctuation, capitalisation – and I have worried whether or not I should mention those errors. So thanks to you I wont – problem solved!
    Btw shouldn’t your publisher pick up errors in a manuscript?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a really tough one. It depends on what the contract is…. If it is a friend, that is different from a publisher/editor not picking something up. I don’t know what the answer is… I keep worrying away at it.


  4. Thank you for this! We all have these moments of self-doubt. And also the little too late discoveries of imperfection. I guess it keeps us humble – and certainly makes us human!

    Liked by 1 person

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